Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann

Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann

Reviewed by L.D.Y.

Hardcover (available in trade), 407 pages, 1966

Rating: 9/10

Reason for Reading: It’s the cult-classic that arguably led to trash-writer favourites like Jackie Collins.

Synopsis: Anne, a Mary Tyler Moore-esque character, is thrilled to be out of her small town and in New York City, where she becomes friends with the upbeat Neely, who’s trying to start a singing career. Anne unexpectedly finds herself making connections to the rich and famous and as a result is pulled into a fast-paced world of champagne, pill-popping, and friendships with people like the glamorous Jennifer North. The three girls find themselves getting deeper and deeper into lifestyles and well-paid careers that may cost them much more than they expected.

Why you should read this book: One might think a book like this would be dated after almost forty years, but it still has a great allure to it because it’s surprisingly similar to our current society. Celebrities and their overspending, weight loss clinics, pills to stay thin/awake/asleep, plastic surgery, flops and comebacks: it’s practically a blueprint for today’s rich and famous. Deliciously trashy, but the characters seem like real people with real motives rather than cheaply done caricatures. Highly recommended as a fast and fun summer read.

Why you should avoid this book: Trashy fun occasionally crosses the line into whining hissy fits and insipid shallowness. As a precursor to today’s chick-lit, it’s nowhere near as upbeat, which you may or may not find appealing.

Opening paragraph:

The temperature hit ninety degrees the day she arrived. New York was steaming – an angry concrete animal caught unawares in an unseasonable hot spell. But she didn’t mind the heat or the littered midway called Times Square. She thought New York was the most exciting city in the world.

Fabulous quotes:

‘I’m not especially looking for someone rich. That’s not important.’
Neely sneered. ‘You’ve never been poor.’
‘Neely…let me put it this way. You’re thrilled because you’ve landed Hit the Sky. Suppose after a few weeks of rehearsal someone like Allen came into your life and asked you to marry him and chuck the show before it even opened. Would you?’
‘Would I? But so fast it’d make your head spin. Look, let’s say I have real talent. And let’s say someday I get a chance to prove it. If I work real hard for years, what will I end up with? Money, position and respect. That’s it. That’s all there is. And it could take me years of hard work to get that. Allen is handing you the works on a silver platter.’

Seconals. Irma had given her four. (‘They’re like gold to me. I can’t give you any more.’) Irma had replaced Neely in the show. She claimed the little red ‘dolls’ had saved her life. (‘I’d give you more, Jennifer, but you need a doctor’s prescription. I can only get ten a week.’)
Should she try one? It was a frightening idea, that a little red capsule as tiny as this could put you to sleep. She walked to the small pantry and poured a glass of water. She held the pill for a second, feeling her heart pound. This was dope – but that was ridiculous! Irma took one every night, and she was fine.

Also recommended: Hollywood Wives: The New Generation by Jackie Collins; Rock Star by Jackie Collins.

Also by this author: Every Night, Josephine!; The Love Machine; Once is Not Enough; Yargo; Dolores.

Fun tidbit: Before discovering that writing was her niche, Susann was an actress, playwright, model and singer.

© Lisa Yanaky 2003-2007

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *