Last Dance with Valentino by Daisy Waugh
|Last Dance with Valentino by Daisy Waugh|
|Genre: Literary Fiction|
|Reviewer: Louise Laurie|
|Summary: Mainly set in the 1920s when Hollywood seemed to rule America - and the world. And when one superstar, aka Rudolph Valentino, appeared on the movie scene, everyone seemed to fall in love with him, including a rather quiet and unremarkable English girl.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 336||Date: August 2011|
|External links: Author's website|
When I read on the front cover that this book is described by the Sunday Times as A gripping, bittersweet love story it wasn't a particularly good statement for me to read. As a rule I don't generally 'do' love stories. If I happen to read one every once in a while then that's fine by me but I don't encourage them! But, both the lovely title and the front cover did their job and pulled me in - just a little.
The story opens in 1926. The English girl (and one of the two central characters) is now a grown woman. She's called Jennifer and is busy writing some sort of diary/memoirs. And they are intriguing indeed. As you'd expect, she writes about things which are important to her; pivotal moments in her life and then all of a sudden and rather incredibly she blithely talks about the current darling of Hollywood, no less than Valentino. There is no doubt as to his gorgeousness. For example, Last month he was voted the Most Desirable Movie Star in America ... Jennifer writes as if she knows him well, very well. How can that be? I wanted to find out more.
So the reader learns pretty early on that nice and wholesome (and utterly forgettable and boring by American standards) Jennifer Doyle has decided to change her name to Lola Nightingale. She's gone all-American. Perhaps she's secured a bit part in some movie and it's all gone to the poor girl's head.
Waugh fills in the earlier years and tells us all in her own good time. In order to understand what's happened in the intervening ten years, we go back and forth in terms of time. Jennifer-now-Lola is writing dramatic things in this diary of hers as we dip into portions she'll allow us to see. Things like ... Rudy loves me. And I am not just a fan. Who wouldn't want to read more? The whole female population of America and beyond are swooning over Rudy. Cleverly, Waugh reminds her readers just how devilishly handsome the man is, by inserting a handful of black and white photographs at the back of the book. He must have been every movie director's dream. As well as Jennifer's.
Waugh's style is charming, there's no other word for it. She has a deceptively light but very effective touch. She tells a terrific story here. She presents to the reader a slow and steady build-up with both of her leading characters. And the pattern of bobbing back and forth, of telling us just enough to whet our appetite and then leaving us dangling for a while. Brilliant.
We travel with the younger Jennifer and her rather feckless father as they sail from England to America for a new life. Both are entranced by everything they see as they dock in New York. But there's a nasty surprise in store for the dutiful and obedient daughter. She's been secured a job as a kind of governess-companion/nursemaid to a young boy of rich parents while her father drinks, dines and flirts with too many women. Jennifer takes time to settle into her new and rather strange life. Then one day Rodolfo turns up ... and her life changes forever.
Without wishing to risk spoiling too much of this beautiful and glorious story, Rodolfo (poor, unknown) soon transforms into the famous Rudolph Valentino. Jennifer's fortunes do not mirror those of her friend, Rodolfo. Various well-known movie stars of the time are mentioned in passing and in Waugh's hands, there's a palpable sense of Hollywood glamour. As the story gathers pace (albeit subtly) the suspense is terrific. It's a classic will they-won't they, do they/don't they. The suspense almost screams from the page and I loved it all. I adored this book. It's elegant and beautifully written. Please feel free to wallow in it and I did. Highly recommended.
I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.
If this book appeals then you might like to try Lowside of the Road: A Life of Tom Waits by Barney Hoskyns.
Like to comment on this review?
Just send us an email and we'll put the best up on the site.