Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: March 4, 2014
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Goodreads says, "Upstate New York, 1928. Laura Kelley and the man she loves sneak away from their judgmental town to attend a performance of the scandalous Ziegfeld Follies. But the dark consequences of their night of daring and delight reach far into the future.… That same evening, Bohemian poet Edna St. Vincent Millay and her indulgent husband hold a wild party in their remote mountain estate, hoping to inspire her muse. Millay declares her wish for a new lover who will take her to unparalleled heights of passion and poetry, but for the first time, the man who responds will not bend completely to her will.… Two years later, Laura, an unwed seamstress struggling to support her daughter, and Millay, a woman fighting the passage of time, work together secretly to create costumes for Millay’s next grand tour. As their complex, often uneasy friendship develops amid growing local condemnation, each woman is forced to confront what it means to be a fallen woman…and to decide for herself what price she is willing to pay to live a full life."The year is 1928 and Laura Kelley wants more for her life than just working at her father's store in their sleepy little town. She and her secret lover head to the Ziegfeld Follies for a scandalous night of drinking, dancing, and having fun. If her father knew what she was really up to, he would be furious. The most exciting night of Laura's life ends up becoming one that holds a huge consequence. That very same night and not far away, Edna St. Vincent Millay is trying to finish her collection of poems and is having her usual wild night of drinking, poetry, and debauchery, except this time, Millay isn't getting what she wants. A few years past and Laura finds herself in a tough predicament as she is a single mother barely surviving in a town that shuns her. There are many parallels between Millay and Laura as the townspeople don't approve of Millay's cavalier lifestyle; however, she is rich and wants to help Laura. Laura is a talented seamstress and Millay wants her to create all of her outfits for her new book tour. Doing so would bring financial security to Laura, which she desperately needs, but she would also be going against the community and her beloved sister if she takes Millay on as a client. Both women must deal with being nonconformists in a town that doesn't appreciate them and navigate through the ups and downs of life as "fallen" women. Erika Robuck's Fallen Beauty is a well written historical tale that truly brings to life the fascinating person that is Edna St. Vincent Millay.
I immediately connected with Laura. Although I didn't always agree with her decisions, Robuck wrote her in such a way that I felt for her and was rooting for from the start. It's not easy to being a single mother, especially one that is shunned by her community, so I really wanted her to succeed in Fallen Beauty. Laura had big dreams which involved pursuing her passion of design, but it all changed that one fateful night with her "lover." Throughout the book, readers are trying to figure out the identity of her "lover" and ultimately, the father of her child, so this was a mystery that kept me flipping pages.
Laura and Millay form an unlikely friendship and it was interesting to sort of examine how they are actually similar in their circumstances in that they both are "fallen" and are outsiders. I liked how Robuck created the fictional character of Laura to sort of balance the story of Millay; it was interesting to see how both characters' stories eventually become entwined in Fallen Beauty.
Simply put, Millay is awesome and Robuck definitely captured her brilliance in Fallen Beauty. She was before her time, a true feminist, so very talented, but also impulsive, destructive and the very definition of a tortured artist. I love reading about the eccentric talent, such as the subjects of Robuck's other books (Ernest Hemingway and Zelda Fitzgerald). The most brilliant of people are always this way it seems, which makes for such a captivating tale.
If you are a fan of Millay or learning more about eccentric literary sensations, then I encourage you to check out Robuck's Fallen Beauty. I thoroughly enjoyed it!
Thanks to Penguin, I am hosting a giveaway for one copy of Fallen Beauty to one lucky US reader. Good luck and please refer to my giveaway rules. The giveaway is over on March 8th. Be sure to check out the other stops on the tour for Fallen Beauty, plus read more reviews, and enter giveaways for additional chances to win a copy for yourself! Here's are a few of the upcoming stops: