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Laura Lamont's Life in Pictures

Laura Lamont's Life in Pictures - Emma Straub Laura Lamont surprised me. I read it on the recommendation of a friend, but I went in without much enthusiasm. A book about an actress struggling in the studio system of the Golden Age of Hollywood wasn't exactly what I was in the mood for. I can understand the disappointment of people who read this book looking exactly for that, because that's not what this book is. But I like it all the better for it.

A novel is always about many things. For me, this book describes a woman's struggle to define her identity, a struggle complicated by the fact that she is an actress, both professionally and personally. It is about her professional life, with its ups and downs, but also about her roles as a daughter, sister, wife, mother, widow, and finally, a woman who is more than the sum of her roles. I'm not an actress in any way, but I identified with her search for identity. It's that idea that stuck with me after I finished the book, lingering and making me ask questions about my own life, the way a good book should.

There are a few odd things about the writing style. The narration is a little detached, but I felt that was appropriate for a series of snapshots of life performances, and I warmed to it. The author has a habit of putting extraordinarily long paragraphs explaining the inner thoughts of the characters between lines of dialog, so by the time they actually respond aloud, I have to look back to remember what was being said. And yes, the overall sketch of the rise and fall of her career is fairly typical of the time (probably intentionally).

Ultimately, though, I felt a strong connection to Elsa/Laura, even though we don't have a lot in common. And the ideas behind her character, rather than the specifics of the setting or the time period, were what made me love the book.