Review: The Girls in the Picture

The Girls in the Picture by Melanie BenjaminGirlsinthePicture

Delacorte Press, 2018.  Hardcover, 448 pages.

Benjamin is noted for her previous best-selling works, The Aviator’s Wife and The Swans of Fifth Avenue, brought forth her latest work of historical fiction last week.  The Girls in the Picture brings to life the story of Frances Marion and Mary Pickford.  Not only were they the best of friends, but the pair were also a creative tour-de-force in the early years of the motion picture industry.

The story opened in 1914 when Frances first met Mary on a Hollywood set.  She had come to see about drawing the actress and they connected.  Alongside the new-found friendship, Frances became enthralled with the industry, but did not want to act, and tried various rolls before setting in as a writer, then called a scenarist.  And once that niche was found, Frances and Mary teamed up to take the industry by storm with their joint creative endeavors.  Also in great evidence towards the books beginning is background into Mary’s past as a child actress on stage and earlier films and her need to be her family’s provider.

The novel follows how these endeavor played out, both personally and professionally.  In both cases, the women became successful and Mary’s mother, Charlotte, took care of both.  They even had homes next door to each other for a while.  Readers will see how each woman grew in her profession and the changes it wrought, both for good and bad, especially as they gained more power in the industry and shook it up multiple times.  Then the personal changes are also evident as Frances first stakes out on her own as a divorced woman and Mary finally takes the steps to remove herself from her estranged husband.  Then readers will be with both as they fall in love again and the issues that come along with that.

As a whole, I enjoyed the novel. Readers will gain a sense of both Frances and Mary, both individually and as a pair.  They had a unique friendship that combined their work and private lives and that takes center stage throughout the novel.  The book is also their coming of age story as readers see how they matured as they aged and overcame regrettable decisions made earlier in life.  Benjamin’s level of description is wonderful, as always, and it places readers directly in the story with its vividness.  There were also eye opening description to the early era of the motion picture industry that may lead a reader to want to research more.  In comparison to her other works, I enjoyed this novel nearly as much as The Aviator’s Wife and more so that her last work, The Swans of Fifth Avenue.  And on a personal level, I greatly connected with Benjamin’s depiction of Fran.

I received an advanced reader copy from the publisher for review.


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