I was an English major in college. (I know, I know. You’re totally shocked.) One of my very favorite professors was also one of the toughest, so when he asked us to write a paper on a woman from history, I was determined to make a good impression. I was also determined to stand out.
I chose to write my paper on Marlene Dietrich. I researched for days, lived at the library and took over my parents’ home office, hoping that my words would do her justice. I was rewarded with an A, as well as a note from my professor, scrawled across the top of my paper: “Just when I think you’re not paying any attention, you pull something like this out of the blue and surprise me.” (I had a tendency to daydream in class. I also got caught a few times, reading a book instead of paying attention to the lecture.)
So, when I was approved to read Marlene Dietrich, the Life I was so. excited.
That changed very quickly.
When I have to review a book that I don’t especially care for, I do my best to spotlight any and all positives before sharing what I didn’t enjoy; what I liked about the storyline, the characters, the writing and so forth. Why? Because the author poured blood, sweat and tears into that book and I, for one, am not going to rip that apart. And so, while I am still going to try to stick with that formula for this book, I feel that this will be the first honest-to-goodness negative review I have really written.
Because when you write a biography about someone, and decide to be small while doing it…well, that’s a tad more difficult to be positive about. But, for the sake of being kind, let’s try.
It was so fun to get a peek into parts of Marlene Dietrich’s life that we aren’t usually privy to, such as excerpts from her diary. (She named her diary, y’all. I am SO going to name my journal now. I’m thinking Sven. Björn? Finn!) I enjoyed these glimpses into her childhood and family life. But that is where the enjoyment ended. The rest of the book felt like Maria Riva’s attempts to be…well, small!
So, so, so (painfully, so) much of the book was an odd attempt at turning the spotlight onto the author herself. And the rest of the book was unorganized, tedious, poorly written and…to be honest…downright cruel in places. I don’t know if the author is tired of not being in the spotlight herself, or carries around some innate jealousy towards her mother. But many of her comments were cringe-worthy. This book, instead of being enjoyable, left me with a sour taste in my mouth towards the author, and that’s putting it nicely.
Bottom Line: Go to Amazon, type in “Marlene Dietrich,” close your eyes and point to the screen. Buy that one, instead of this one.
**Thank you to NetGalley and Open Road Integrated Media for the opportunity to read and review this book!