Tuesday, July 06, 2021


Mary Astor
WWW. WEDNESDAY asks three questions to prompt you to speak bookishly. To
participate, and to see how other book lovers responded, click here.  

1. What are you currently reading? The Purple Diaries: Mary Astor and the Most Sensational Hollywood Scandal of the 1930s by Joseph Egan. Mary Astor appeared in many films that remain popular today (Maltese Falcon, Meet Me in St. Louis) but I can't say I'm a fan. So her story is new to me. And WOW! What a story!

A beautiful girl born to a poor family, her father saw her potential as a moneymaker and got her in front of movie cameras. As a teenager, she was seduced by John Barrymore and developed what would be considered today a healthy attitude toward sex, but back in the 1930s, she was viewed as almost voracious. What she wanted -- even more than the career, which came rather easily to her -- was a husband who could engage her both intellectually and physically. Doesn't every woman want that? Somehow Mary couldn't find it. Her first husband was her best friend, but they had little physical chemistry. He died suddenly and, grief-stricken and confused, she married a doctor with (ahem) very good hands. They were compatible in bed but he was left-brained. He didn't care about books, music, or movies. Just science, medicine, and hunting.

She and the doctor had a baby and then, realizing how disappointed they were in one another, starting cheating. He returned to a former lover, she took up with a popular playwright. They were en route to a rather amicable divorce.

Then her husband found her diaries. Her very personal diaries.

Mary Astor not only chronicled her extramarital sex life, she wrote about her true feelings. Her husband found her descriptions of him unforgivable. He wanted revenge, and knew the diary was a powerful weapon. And so a megastar whose name was right up there with Bogart, Gable and Harlow had to fight for both custody of her daughter AND to keep her juicy memoir out of open court ... and the press.

I like Mary Astor. She was the anti-Kardashian, trying to live a public life with dignity. I understand her hurt and angry husband, even though Dr. Thorpe is definitely the villain of the story. This is a great story, well told.

2. What did you recently finish reading? Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella. Twenty-something Lara Lington is at a crossroads professionally, financially and romantically. It's at this stressful time that an apparition appears to her. It's the ghost of her late, great-aunt Sadie, who has come back as a madcap, fashion-forward flapper ("twenties girl").

This book starts out silly. VERY SILLY. Even by Kinsella standards. (If you've read any of her popular Shopaholic books, you'll know what I mean.) The humor was so I Love Lucy meets Bewitched that I almost gave up on it.

But then, at about the halfway mark, the plot gelled and took off in an interesting direction. Sadie became a more dimensional person (can a ghost have three dimensions?) and therefore more sympathetic and less a mere goof. I found myself more involved with, and more touched by, this book at the end than I thought I'd be.
3. What will read next? I don't know.