Fallen Beauty by Erika Robuck

I don’t remember how I first heard about Fallen Beauty. Usually I have a good memory when it comes to books, and I can remember whether a book was recommended on Amazon or if I read a book review in Entertainment Weekly. But I’m just drawing a blank when it comes to Fallen Beauty. Nevertheless, it was in my library pile, and its due date was quickly approaching, so I put it at the top of my to-read pile.

Fallen Beauty is a work of historical fiction written by Erika Robuck. This is her fourth novel, and her third to feature prominent 20th century American literary figures. I actually have her Call Me Zelda on my Kindle. I do believe that it was a Kindle deal of the day. No, I don’t think that there is a correlation between the Kindle deal and finding out about Fallen Beauty.

Fallen Beauty is the story of two women living in the same town. The first is Edna St. Vincent Millay, who is at the end of the height of her fame and infamy. The second is Laura, a young dressmaker. Laura’s life is changed forever when she sneaks out of the house to attend the Ziegfeld Follies with her secret boyfriend. She gets pregnant that night, and becomes the town pariah. Two years later, her path crosses that of the dashing Vincent Millay.

At first, Laura refuses to work with the scandalous poet. She has had quite enough of scandal, and does not need to bring any more upon herself. But she and her daughter need to eat, and the bills need to be paid. Laura capitulates, and an odd partnership is formed.

The chapters alternate between Laura and Vincent. Both are utterly fascinating. Laura lives in a stifling small town that barely tolerates her presence, yet she remains steadfast and determined to provide a good life for her daughter.

Vincent was quite mercurial, and prone to fits of depression. I was not very familiar with her work, despite having majored in English. I gravitated towards British literature, and my American studies are still somewhat lacking. Although I realize that Robuck took liberties with the characterization, I was utterly fascinated.

If you love Edna St. Vincent Millay’s poetry, or perhaps if you just enjoy the 1920s, then I would recommend Fallen Beauty. If you’re interested in finding out more, you can do so here: Fallen Beauty

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