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Leaving a Doll's House: A Memoir Paperback – April 1, 1998


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Back Bay Books (April 1, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316093831
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316093835
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.6 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #775,186 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The dismal account of actress Claire Bloom's life with author Philip Roth. Bloom, once described by Gore Vidal as, " ... the most beautiful of postwar screen presences and the finest interpreter of Ibsen in this generation," writes that she was entranced by Roth during their first meeting in 1966. A decade later they moved in together, and she was his muse during the late 70s and early 80s. But Roth's abusive temper and bouts with depression made life nearly intolerable. Even so, they married in 1990, only to divorce a short time later. Though Bloom recounts Roth's violence and betrayal in frightening detail, she never explains why she couldn't muster the strength to simply leave him. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

In 1982, English actress Claire Bloom (b. 1931) published a memoir, Limelight and After, that focused on her professional achievements. This second memoir reveals her personal life. "Now," she writes, "all the factors have altered, and I am free to tell my story in full." Bloom invests the first half of her narrative with a plainspoken eloquence as she recounts her difficult childhood in London, Florida and New York, and as she writes of her affairs with a series of dashing but unreliable men?including Richard Burton and Yul Brynner?with regret but genuine affection. The heart of the book, though, and no doubt its main selling point, is Bloom's long and bitterly angry account of her 18-year relationship?including a marriage?with Philip Roth, who is portrayed here as a brilliant monster, inventively cruel and manipulative. His seductiveness, writes Bloom, "wasn't charm; it was intelligence." By the end of their relationship, Bloom sees him as a "game-playing, Machiavellian strategist." Roth may nor may not have had it coming, but Bloom's hundred-page aria of ire makes for uncomfortable reading in any case. It seems a genuine cri de coeur, howver, voiced with the sensitivity that distinguishes the rest of this earnest soulful autobiography. Photos not seen by PW. Major ad/promo.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

This is a particularly well written autobiography.
Candid One
She was a successful screen actress (as in Limelight with Charlie Chaplin), but she was better known for her stage acting.
Barbara Badham
Her total lack of regard to depicting herself in any kind of self pitying role is what I liked most.
george sand

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

61 of 67 people found the following review helpful By G. Mogel on July 4, 2003
Format: Paperback
Ok, I admit and I am embarrassed--I ate this book up like a pint of Haagen-Daz. And afterwards, I felt about the same as I do when I look at the empty ice cream container: a little shamed, vaguely nauseous, highly satisfied. I am a huge Philip Roth fan, a collector of his signed first editions, etc., so you have to take this reveiw with a grain of salt. Ms. Bloom, or whoever ghosted it, is much better writer than I had anticipated and the pages flew by (just one more spoonful...). Charlie Chaplin, Laurence Olivier, Richard Burton, Gore Vidal, Rod Steiger--it was interesting to read what felt like highly redacted versions of who these men were in Ms. Bloom's life. She does seem to reserve a certainy clarity and honesty for her depiction of Roth, for better or worse, than she seems willing to give to these other men. I, frankly, believe most if not all of what she wrote about Roth, and it is tantalizing to watch the threads of her fact with him reverberate in his fiction. (Sylphid, the harp-playing harpy in "I Married A Communist" is very openly Bloom's daughter with Rod Steiger). So if you are a Roth fan and are interested in a painful dissection of his fiction, you should probably put this on your shelf...though don't expect HIM to appreciate it.
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62 of 73 people found the following review helpful By Danusha V. Goska on November 7, 2004
Format: Paperback
Claire Bloom's "Leaving a Doll's House" is poignant in its honesty, but a bit underwritten. The first time I reached for my highlighter pen was on page 104, where Bloom describes a distraught Vivien Leigh.

Leigh, of course, was the incomparable beauty who portrayed Scarlett O'hara in "Gone with the Wind." Leigh's marriage was unsteady; she suffered from mental illness. Leigh kept her emotions in check, but one night Bloom entered Leigh's dressing room and found her in tears. "Vivien in tears was not like anyone I knew; no red nose, sniffles...she simply sat at her table, in her beautiful scarlet [how appropriate] costume; diamond tears rolled down her cheeks, her beauty undiminished, her make-up untouched." What an image.

Page 149 includes a similarly brief, and pointedly telling, anecdote. Bloom's husband, the author Philip Roth, insists that a skunk has anti-Semitic feelings toward him. This anecdote goes a long way towards explaining Roth's new book, "The Plot Against America."

For the most part, though, the book is frank, and underwritten. For example, Bloom's father was a feckless businessman and gambler who abandoned Bloom, her mother, and her brother. Years later, when she became a successful actress, Bloom's father reappeared, backstage in her dressing room, with a new, rich wife in tow. Bloom, by her own account, was pointedly cold and humiliating to him. Three days later, he died. "I believed," Bloom writes, "that it had been my callous behavior that had killed him" (79). Bloom does not pause after this remarkable confession; only one sentence is offered as denouement, "I picked up and went on with my life."

Bloom played an essential role in a superlative film, "The Haunting.
Read more ›
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Barbara Badham VINE VOICE on April 20, 2008
Format: Paperback
Claire has had a fascinating life. Her first love affair was with Richard Burton, followed by others with Laurence Olivier and Yul Brenner. She was a successful screen actress (as in Limelight with Charlie Chaplin), but she was better known for her stage acting. So she has a great story to tell. But something about this book was a little "off" for me, and I can't quite put my finger on it. She was English, and I am a great Anglophile and so I normally love the tone and nuances of anything British. But she came across as perhaps a little bit affected. And then she describes her three husbands--she never really loved Rod Steiger (but married him because she was pregnant), her second husband Elkins (whom she mentions only briefly and usually just by last name), and then she excoriates her longest mate and last husband, Philip Roth, detailing the demise of their partnership. She claims to have "moved on" with her life since him, but there is an unmistakable taste of bitterness to her recall. She further described a rather symbiotic relationship with her daughter, Anna Steiger, who became an opera singer. Claire is to be commended for her tremendous honesty in this book, and I have no doubt that she was a brilliant actress. Her surprise ending makes for good reading, although I had "not quite boarded her bus," as they say.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By readernyc on October 21, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I just was reading the most recent of Philip Roth's books, which I adore. I have read everything he's written more than once. Then I decided to open "Leaving a Doll's House" again.

I was taken with how honest is Bloom, and how what others take to be personal vitriol really isn't. It was more fun reading Bloom after Roth. She's not a genius and she gives him plenty of credit for being one, but she is smart and has a great warmth... and is not just dishing about Philip but is telling how it was for her. Is there a woman alive, over 30, who would not totally relate to her hurt? Well done, Ms. Bloom.
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47 of 58 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 7, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I picked up this autobiography not out of any particular interest in Claire Bloom the actress (I'll say Claire Bloom the writer resembles Claire Bloom the actress : competent, well-spoken, attractive but so narcissistic it is difficult to empathize with her), but rather intrigued by her relationship with Philip Roth, an author I admire but find maddeningly misogynistic.
Bloom the writer is no more convincing than Bloom the actress at depicting a depth of feeling. She tells us she loved Roth, Richard Burton, her mother and her daughter. Yet mother and daughter both get short shrift (when Roth didn't want the daughter around, the daughter was out on her ear). First and second husbands get little attention (not famous enough ? there is something of the groupie about Ms. Bloom).
She names her autobiography after « A Doll's House » but is this ironic ? She portrays herself as the original doormat-wife and mistress and then asks her audience to sympathize with her inability to get her husbands to respect her. She moans about unfaithful husbands but delights in telling her readers how she cuckolded Richard Burton's wife. Pot, meet kettle.
The book's main source of interest is its description of Philip Roth's mental breakdown. This is fascinating for Roth readers - however humiliating it must have been for Roth the man to endure (and now to have exhibited in public by his ex-wife).
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