Rating: 4 stars
Shelf: Now Reading
Total pop-culture classic that is, in a way, timeless. Sure the language and social settings are pure 1950s/60s New York City – a really great snapshot of the times. But the book is about more than that. It’s about the individual struggles of three women – Anne Welles, who is looking for freedom from her restrictive New England life; Neely O’Hara, who is looking for fame and power at any cost; and Jennifer North, a beautiful actress who is just looking for someone to love her for who she really is. VALLEY OF THE DOLLS is about that struggle – the climb, the sacrifices, the consequences. And the dolls. The red dolls. Yellow dolls. Green dolls.
I think what loved best was the build. You meet Anne when she first moves to New York. Neely is a young, bubbly vaudeville actress looking to make it. They are both so bright and hopeful. Lovable. You want Anne to get Lyon Burke. You want Neely to make it big, bigger than Helen Lawson. Jennifer enters the story later, but she is just as instantly likable. You want for her to find a great guy and have the children she’s always longed for.
But then the years pass. Perhaps most interesting was watching Neely fall apart. Watching her go from this promising young woman to a washed-up, power hungry, Academy Award winning actress who cares about only herself.
And the end of the book was perfect – a cliffhanger of sorts. Anne maintains her dignity throughout the novel, though we watch Jennifer and Neely fall hard. I waited and waited for Anne’s descent as well. It doesn’t come until the very last line – she’ll take two red dolls that night. After all, it’s New Year’s Eve! And the reader is left wondering – will Anne end up like her friends or will her strength bring her to a happier ending?