Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Blonde

By Anna Godbersen

Weinstein Books     2014
390 pages     Fiction

The Blonde is an alternative history novel that feeds into the conspiracies about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963 and the death of Marilyn Monroe in 1962. In this version of the story, Marilyn Monroe is a secret agent recruited by the Russians to establish and maintain a relationship with Jack Kennedy and relay information given to her through pillow talk from 1959 until the presumed death of Marilyn, and the assassination of JFK. 

It is told in the third person from Marilyn’s point of view, with occasional chapters told by Walls, the FBI agent assigned to follow Marilyn and her assignations. The entire cast of characters is there, including Robert Kennedy, Arthur Miller, Clark Gable, and Frank Sinatra. Oh—and the Chicago mafia, who, according to this narrative, bought the Chicago vote for Kennedy.

Marilyn is everything that you can imagine. She is young and naive, and at the same time brash and worldly. She knows just how to get everything she wants, but at the same time, she has nothing that she wants more than to be loved. None of the men that seek her out satisfies her longings for love and security. She has spent her entire life seeking the father that she never knew. The Russian agent promises her that if she works as an agent for them, she will meet her father.

Although the history happens just like we remember, the way it happens and reasons why it happens are very different from the way it was recorded. That is the beauty of alternative history novels. You play along with the game and nod your head, “Yes, that’s possibly the way it could have happened.” Philip Roth’s The Plot Against America imagines a world in which Charles Lindbergh became the President. In The Blonde, Marilyn Monroe becomes a spy and perhaps an assassin.

My complaint about The Blonde has nothing to do with the plot, which is well-researched and totally feasible. I just got tired of flowery language that made no sense. For example, “The apartment was empty, and the herringbone parquet stretched out from beneath the points of her high-heeled shoes, unprotected by the clutter of real life.” Or “the honeyed end of daylight making her loneliness seem almost gorgeous” or “The air coming off the high desert was over a hundred degrees, the kind of heat that melts the borders of a girl’s body.” See what I mean?

But—if you can get by the adjectives, and Marilyn’s use of her body as a weapon, and just read for plot, it’s a fun read. Could it have been? Who knows!

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