Laura Lamont's Life in Pictures - Emma Straub Elsa Emerson is a young girl living in Wisconsin, with parents who run a theater, when her older sister, Hildy, dies tragically. When Elsa grows up, she married Gordon Pitts, a young actor, and heads out to Hollywood to make her debut. There, she becomes Laura Lamont, finds love, and learns to deal with the past, enjoy the present, and look forward to the future.

NOTE: I received this through the Amazon Vine Program.

There is nothing more glittery than the Golden Years of Hollywood, which is what compelled me to select this book. And what drew me in was Emma Straub's absolutely stunning writing. But I can't give this book full marks for one simple reason: I want more.

Straub has created this beautiful, vivid world. Elsa's life in Wisconsin, her childhood with Hildy, is painted so beautifully, so tenderly, so carefully that I was hooked. I couldn't help reading this book; it begged me to read it constantly. And that compulsion never really left me the entire time I read this book. I've read far too many books with saggy middles or boring beginnings or sloppy endings that I forgot what it's like to read a book that refuses to be put down. Straub has created that book.

Her characters are intricate and stunning. Elsa/Laura is our protagonist, and through the fifty or so years of her life that we get a peek into, she goes through a lot. The death of her beloved sister, marriage, children, divorce, death, suicide, success, failure--it's all there, and it all touches her in ways that make sense (for the most part). Elsa internalizes what happens to her sister in a way that changes her for the rest of her life. She begins her pattern of constantly "acting", slipping into a new character for each person she comes in contact with: a lover for Gordon, an actress for her boss, a mother to her children. She comes to a point where she has no idea who she is or which "Elsa/Laura" she should be, she is so stretched thin.

Irving, Gordon, Josephine, Ginger, Jimmy, Hildy, Clara, Florence, Junior, Harriet--they are the people that populate Laura's world and are as multi-dimensioned as Laura. These are people with dreams and desires, fears and follies. Sometimes their motivations don't always make a lot of sense (such as a key event in Junior's life), but I wonder if that is the "fault" of following Laura and Laura alone.

So what is the problem? It's simple: More. I need more. I need more of Laura actually acting during the height of her career. I need to see more of her interactions with other people, more than just throwaway lines about how things have changed in the sometimes 10 years between chapters. This is a beautiful, intricate book talking about the life of a woman and how it goes from success to failure to success, but I had trouble understanding her "failures" because I never saw enough of her life when it was successful. What about the movies she acted in? The people she acted with? The leads she kissed? How she got started onto the barbiturates? I can get this isn't going to be a tell-all about the inner workings of Hollywood, with lots of time dedicated to her movie career. I get that and respect it--if you want to see the "dark side" of Hollywood, I can think of quite a few movies that have gone there ("Walk the Line", "Dreamgirls", and "Ray" are the first ones off the top of my head). I understand that this book is more about Laura away from her glitzy, actress side. But if I don't see her acting, if I don't see more of her success, I can't feel the pain when her life begins to slip away.

And that is really how I would boil this book down. It's a beautifully written novel, completely absorbing with an interesting story that desperately could have used 100+ pages added. If you love Golden Age Hollywood but are okay with not seeing much "behind the scenes" of the acting life and instead want a closer look at how it affects an actress, I definitely recommend this book to you. Even though I was constantly yelling "MORE!" to the book, I did greatly enjoy it and will be keeping my eyes open for more Straub books in the future.