Fallen Beauty Erika Robuck
In the late 1920's/ early 1930's, two women live in upstate New York. Laura has an unsuitable love affair, one that leaves her with a child, the scandal of her small town. The other is Edna St. Vincent Millay, the renowned poet. Told in both voices, their lives start to intersect.
While it was the Millay angle that intrigued me, it was Laura's story that drew me in and made the novel for me. It has shades of The Scarlet Letter, as Laura refuses to name Grace's father, and is shunned my most of the town. Her sister is married to an up-and-coming politician, and while they remain very close (Marie being her only friend) there is tension between Everett's career ambitions and Laura's scandal. Laura's a hard character--she loves her daughter, but cannot forgive herself for what happened to bring her daughter into this world, and cannot forgive the town for shunning her even though she judges herself just as harshly, if not more so, than they do.
Millay's a harder character to judge. Robuck is constrained by the realities of who she was. She did her research and did a good job of capturing her voice, but has a harder time explaining her actions. Laura isn't always a likeable character, but she's an understandable one. Millay flies into rages and orders all those around her to do her bidding. She orders ex-lovers to return to her side, and plays their affections off one another. Her free-love and open lifestyle had a definite mean and vindictive streak. But because Millay is not Robuck's character, there is little explanation for her actions that can be given beside "temperamental poet." The language is definitely more beautiful in Millay's sections (it is, afterall, in the voice of a poet) but it was Laura's story and Laura's journey that really drew me into the story and kept me turning the pages.
This is not Robuck's first novel based on authors--she also has Call Me Zelda and Hemingway's Girl.
Book Provided by... the publisher, as part of the Fallen Beauty blog tour.
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