A well-written, solid novel of character and situation, O'Brien's newest book (after the nonfiction Murder in Little Egypt) presents an authentic picture of vaudeville, the theater and the movie industry in the 1900s. The protagonist is based on the author's own mother, a star of the silent screen. The indulged daughter of a vaudeville impresario who dies nearly penniless, Margaret Spencer is thereafter under the thumb of her greedy, manipulative mother. Now the family breadwinner, teenage Margaret is put to work as a model. Enrolled in the Manhattan's Professional Children's School, she wins the part of Juliet in a school production and (in an insufficiently detailed transition) leaps to a starring role on Broadway. But her mother signs a contract with chicaning agents, thereby sending a reluctant Margaret to Hollywood, where, ironically, Mrs. Spencer loses her firm grip on Margaret's salary. Finally independent, Margaret decides that "the tricks and lies and twists of fate that brought me to Hollywood . . . turned out to be all for the best." Margaret is a spirited, clear-eyed and candid young woman, always willing to indulge her strong libido.
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