Susan Fromberg Schaeffer First Nights

ISBN 13: 9780140145434

First Nights

3.61 avg rating
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9780140145434: First Nights

"Beautifully and gracefully written . . . delightful to read." The New York Times Book Review.
The breathtaking tale of two women -- legendary screen goddess Anna Asta and her trusted friend and housekeeper, Ivy Cook. Their youth long behind them, Anna and Ivy tell each other their stories, rearranging the events of the past, reevaluating them, until finally -- together -- they find the one story that lies beneath the apparently patternless chaos of their lives.
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From Kirkus Reviews:

Richly evocative double portrait of two extraordinary yet finally elusive women, silent-screen star Anna Asta and her Caribbean maid Ivy, who meet only after Anna's retirement from films but spend most of their alternating narratives recounting their earlier lives. The first half is dominated by Ivy's recollections of her magical, turbulent childhood on Green Island, but her life--even after the affair that takes her away from the Indies to Nostrand Avenue and a doomed marriage--continues to be shaped by Green Island ``story tailor'' Miss Blue, who listens to her dreams and troubles and then suggests new, more shapely or fulfilling endings. Meanwhile, Anna's life follows Greta Garbo's. Discovered in a Swedish shop by director Max Lilly (Mauritz Stiller), she's brought to Hollywood, where the shy, lumpish farm-girl takes The Studio (MGM) and town by storm in a string of Noble Sinner hits beginning with The Roses (The Torrent). Fired from her second American film, The Siren (The Temptress), Max returns to Sweden to die, while Anna, wondering what's become of a life that now seems compounded entirely of movies, lies, memories, and studio publicity, plunges into an affair with self-destructive costar Charlie Harrow (John Gilbert), a series of abortions, and a parade of fallen heroines until declining European markets force her to try a comedy, Double Trouble (Two-Faced Woman), which makes her realize, devastatingly, that both halves of her personality represented in the film have become equally unreal. A healing epilogue back on Green Island is more fervent than convincing. As usual with Schaeffer (Buffalo Afternoon, 1989, etc.), the weight of lived experience becomes overwhelming, at times oppressive, and the models for that experience--Garbo's career, Andersen's fairy tale ``The Snow Queen''--are designedly inadequate. Schaeffer's exquisite writing burrows too deeply inside her two heroines to allow them, or us, the comfort of wholeness. -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

From Library Journal:

This big, beautiful, hulking work is a sort of novelistic counterpart to an iceberg. Anna Asta is an ancient, reclusive film star living in Manhattan with Ivy Cook, her Caribbean-born maid. In alternating sections, they each recount their histories in their own unique voices. Anna is a close approximation of Greta Garbo, and, as in her previous novels (most recently Buffalo Afternoon , LJ 4/1/89), Schaeffer's careful research comes splendidly alive as she takes us from Sweden to MGM. Meanwhile, Ivy recalls her hard childhood, the beauty and magic of her native island, a marriage that fails, and emigration to Brooklyn. At times the leisurely, circular, repetitive storytelling of both the women can feel claustrophobic. Yet it is this slow accumulation of details and the layering of stories that allow for two such complex and unforgettable lives to emerge with such power. For all fiction collections.
- Brian Kenney, Brooklyn
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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