Many thanks to Jennifer from Penguin for sending me this fascinating book to review!
As a teenager at the turn of the 20th century in New York, Evelyn Nesbit became the epitome of the ‘it’ girl. Her likeness was on the cover of postcards and magazines and she eventually became a ‘floradora’ girl and danced in popular shows in the city. She was well on her way to becoming a popular figure in entertainment.
Then she met 48 year old Stanford White. He arranged to meet Evelyn through another chorus girl in the floradora show. He took his time with Evelyn and her mother, slowing winning their trust before showing his true colours. While still under White’s ‘tutelage’ Evelyn met John Barrymore and almost had a normal relationship with someone her own age. But fate, Stanford White and her mother intervened and it was not to be. With no adult guidance and little experience with hidden agendas, the naïve Evelyn fell prey to older men who her mother allowed intentionally or not, into their lives. Finally, Evelyn was pursued and won by Harry K. Thaw, another poor choice.
Though these events took place over a 100 years ago, Evelyn’s experiences echo resoundingly across the years to mirror those of today’s young celebrities: beautiful young girl finds success as a model or actress, becomes famous, is relentlessly pursued by fans, some become friends – their real motives cleverly hidden, but once revealed result in intense pressure from media and even tragedy. Her life has become a nightmare. Sound like anyone familiar? Britney Spears perhaps? How about Lindsay Lohan? American Eve is a cautionary tale that is undoubtedly destined to be ignored by those it could help the most.
The story is told well and the research done on the subject is meticulous. The reader is given a sense of ‘place’ and ‘prejudice’ via pictures of the principals involved and buildings and the descriptions of New York at that time. Extreme poverty as well as extreme decadence through wealth is laid out in depth. It is interesting to note in the acknowledgments that the author had the support of Evelyn’s grandson and daughter-in-law in writing this story, lending it credibility and a genuineness that might have been difficult to achieve otherwise.
I was very excited to have the opportunity to review this book. Over the years I’ve read a few articles regarding Evelyn Nesbit that I’d found intriguing. This book added a lot more detail and did not disappoint. I recommend American Eve to anyone who is fascinated by recent history and the culture of celebrity and how it has always impacted our lives.