68 of 73 people found the following review helpful
on April 22, 2001
Goddess: The Secret Lives of Marilyn Monroe is an excellent book! After you finish reading this, you feel as though you've been w/ her every step of the way. The author Anthony Summers goes into great detail of her childhood, struggles of becoming famous, her marriages and divorces, her mental breakdown, etc. A little less than half the book is about Marilyn's death. Summers is quick to give us possible causes of the tragic event backed up w/ testimonies, interviews, and police reports. Instead of forcing the THIS IS HOW MARILYN DIED routine on us, he lets us decide for ourselves. MANY MANY MANY people were interviewed for this book, including a lot of Marilyn's friends (and so called friends) One thing this book does prove is that Marilyn was definitely involved sexually w/ both of the Kennedy brothers (JFK and Robert) around the last months of her life. Lots of pictures are included (there is even one of her after her autopsy) and copies of police reports and even some of Marilyn's personal letters!! This book is EXCELLENT, and you will not want to put it down. Marilyn is one of the most interesting people you can read about. So beautiful and talented, but so afraid and fragile...too bad this book is Out of print ~ FIND THIS BOOK: you won't regret it!!
45 of 49 people found the following review helpful
on July 15, 2001
Anthony Summers is a respected British investigative reporter, and he's not afraid to delve into controversial subjects. Among other things, he's written one of the best-researched - and most controversial - books on the JFK assassination ("Conspiracy"). In "Goddess" Summers offers us a thoroughly-researched, extremely well-written account of one of Hollywood's greatest - and most tragic - actresses. The first two-thirds of the book takes us through Marilyn's turbulent life and film career. She never knew her father, and her mother suffered from schizophrenia and eventually was sent to a mental hospital - and as a result Marilyn (real name: Norma Jean Baker) constantly feared that she would also suffer a mental breakdown someday. Her life was a series of foster parents, short-lived love affairs that usually ended badly, sexual promiscuity, three (and possibly four, as Summers discovers) marriages, and always the hope on Marilyn's part that she could find the "right man," get married, and settle down to raise a happy family.
Of course, that never happened, and Summers writes sympathetically of her unhappy life - and of her brilliant acting career, in which she often drew upon her personal unhappiness for her best performances. The final one-third of the book generated considerable controversy when it was published in the 1980s, and it's not hard to see why. Summers argues that Monroe didn't commit suicide but was murdered - a murder that was covered up and made to look like a suicide. He also argues that she was "clearly" involved with the Kennedy brothers in her last days, and that her murder may have been tied to her relationship with them. He even implies that Bobby Kennedy may have been present in her home at the time of her death - a charge which seems fantastic, but Summers has interviewed enough people to prove that there were some strange things going on the night that she died. However, even if you don't believe Summers' murder theories, the first part of the book does offer one of the best, and most sympathetic, biographies of Marilyn's brief but brilliant life ever written. If you could only read one biography of Marilyn, then "Goddess" should be it.
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on March 25, 2003
There will never be "the definitive" Marilyn Monroe biography without the intimate contributions of husbands No. 2 and 3, Joe DiMaggio and Arthur Miller. Even if the fabled playwright shares publicly his life with filmdom's eternal goddess, DiMaggio never did and, obviously, never will. Still, this contribution by Anthony Summers, first published in 1984, may be as close as it gets. In his acknowledgements, Summers claims a near-obsession that consumed almost two years of his life. Little wonder: he claims and minutely credits and cites more than 600 subjects who were interviewed in the course of his research. About the only criticism that can be lodged is the book's title. Implying we're about to read nothing more than the sexual conquests of the world's most famous woman of her time, we instead get a thoroughly comprehensive life history that begins even before her birth June 1, 1926, and continues well beyond her death that swelteringly hot August night in 1962. In between, thanks to Summers' prose and sources whose claims were checked and rechecked for confirmation, we get something that few other writers have achieved, much less attempted: a psycho-biograhy that explains the reasons for the legendary insecurity that Norma Jean Baker could never quite overcome even as the world's most desired woman. Even in his passages about the amazing but all-too-short film career, Summers manages to keep us focused on Norma Jean and her reality behind the facade that was Marilyn. Of course, Summers has to deal with his subject's still conroversial death, and "The Candle Burns Down," the segment of the book that centers on Monroe's final days, is so detailed that Summers' own explanation for Marilyn's death sounds as plausible as any theory posited. No, he doesn't buy into the theory that she was murdered by the mob or Kennedy operatives, but that her death was an accidental overdose of Seconals. But Summers does submit that Monroe was cruelly exploited sexually and passed sexually from one Kennedy brother to the other, one the president and the other the attorney general, and that it was Robert Kennedy who found the overdosed star in her home and arranged for the ambulance to the hospital and, after her death en route, covered up his involvement with the help of brother-in-law Peter Lawford. Summers' exhaustively researched finished product distinguishes itself from most other Monroe books in that he doesn't exploit his subject's insecurity and private demons or sexual prowess. Instead, Monroe is treated here with dignity and respect and, in the end, we are left with the feeling that we have read Norma Jean's life history, not that of a creation named Marilyn. And it is on Norma Jean's fears that prevented her alter-ego from recognizing her own worth as both a person and actress that accounts for the legend that is Marilyn Monroe. Summers' book is an important contribution to the literature that seeks to explain and understand the fragile psyche of this truly and tragically wounded soul.
85 of 106 people found the following review helpful
on August 19, 2008
Throughout this biography Mr. Summers displays a palpable yet subtle loathing of Norma Jeane/Marilyn. For example, (p 51 first edition) "....Marilyn used the weapon of her sexuality when she chose...." this statement reveals more about Mr. Summers' misogynistic perspective than anything about Marilyn. Female sexuality as a "weapon"? Weapons are meant to destroy enemies. Women have the right to utilize the power of their sexuality when and how they choose. (Sometimes, regrettably, to their own detriment.) That Mr. Summers even felt the need to make this and other similar statements shows his lack of respect for women and fear of women's sexuality.
The book is full of contradictions. Many times he indicates that Monroe didn't even know the power of her own sexuality; a contradictory picture of the sexually manipulative Marilyn he paints repeatedly as indicated in my first criticism.
It is a very sad fact that the casting couch exists at all. Summers provides an extensive list of Marilyn's of casting couch performances. The only support he provides for these allegations are through third & fourth party quotes purportedly by Marilyn! If anything, it is a horrible shame and twisted value system that required Marilyn/Norma Jeane to attend to the sexual needs of powerful men to achieve any form of success. The incomprehensible charisma she possessed and her unwavering commitment to her art form are ultimately responsible for her enduring legend/success... not "the weapon of her sexuality".
Although well researched, the book is full of hearsay. For example, (p 23 first edition) "....persistent reports from friends suggest Marilyn had numerous abortions..." The only "friend" Summers states as being "..perhaps the most reliable.." was Amy Greene, who said Marilyn had admitted to 12 abortions! Who are all these other "friends"? What was the context of the remarks, and when were they actually made? Who were these "other witnesses"? The many outrageous claims made by Summers are always predicated by "reports from friends" or "some have said", etc., followed by an example of what was said by one or two "friends" to backup his claims.
Marilyn/Norma Jeane suffered from endometriosis, anxiety disorders, depression, and a host of other debilitating conditions. It amazes me that she was able to function at all, let alone become the cultural icon she is. Another incessant theme of Mr. Summers' is that Norma Jeane/Marilyn fabricated stories of rape, sexual abuse, & molestation for attention. This is absurd. As a child, she was at the mercy of the adults entrusted with her care. It is generally undisputed that Marilyn was conflicted, confused, and disturbed to some degree. This is no doubt as a result of the conditions she endured growing up. Children lost in the system are very often assaulted, abused, neglected, and sexually molested. Any adult having survived a childhood of that nature could make similar statements, and no one would doubt the integrity of those statements. Marilyn was seeking validation and solace for the injustices she suffered as a child. Obviously, she was unable to heal these wounds or achieve any degree of real validation. Mr. Summers only attempts to invalidate the very real abuse she survived by questioning the integrity of her statements. Perhaps she needed to talk about it so much because no one wanted to believe her. To believe her would be to acknowledge that the ultimate "sex symbol" of the 20th Century was actually a victim of childhood sexual abuse. To do so would not serve society's need for such an icon. It would grant our icon a very human face. Any biographies on Marilyn Monroe/Norma Jeane should be scrutinized with great intensity. She continues to be exploited and questioned over and over again. In this book, once again, no one is listening to the woman behind the words. He treats her in death as she was treated in life, as his own little cash cow. As a society, we cannot perpetrate cruel interpretations of a real woman, a real adolescent, a real child; be it Marilyn Monroe or any other woman.
Neither DiMaggio or Miller would speak with Summers about Marilyn. These were two of the few men who perhaps came close to knowing the human behind the persona. Miller, of course, exploited Monroe in his own way. But we can respect his choice to refrain from speaking frankly about about Monroe (generally) to the countless biographers (for the most part) who made the request. DiMaggio remained faithful to and protective of her privacy. The memories of his experience with her as a woman ( and more importantly - a human being,) died with him.
Ultimately, our "Icon" so desperately needed to be treated humanely. She was met with resistance every step of the way. This book is just another step away from truly gaining an significant or new insight into the most private spaces of one of the most misunderstood figures in our collective conscious. Fascination cannot be dimmed by dissection and selfish or even unselfish interpretation of the "object" of our fascination. The human, Norma Jeane, has proven this. Ultimately, we will all draw our own conclusion. Obviously, Marilyn Monroe the icon succeeded in linking directly into our unconscious minds. It is the archetype, not the woman, we need to examine... from there, we can gain some insight into understanding how and why this one woman so greatly affected so many people in so many contradictory ways. The secret lies within ourselves, not the continual bawdy exploitative exploration of a single human life. This is not the difinitive biography.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on August 6, 2001
Goddess is one of the best books ever written on Marilyn, and contains some of the most throughly researched information on her death. Summer's book stands as the definative biography about monroe (and there have been many). Summers, unlike many other authors that have attempted to write about monroe (particularly her death), backs up his information with documents and where ever possible the names of his sources. If u only ever read one book about the life and particularly the circumstances surrounding the death of Marilyn Monroe I would recommend Goddess. However for fans of the amazing, facinating and breathtakingly beautiful Monroe, Goddess is a must have, not just as a captivating and informative read but also as a reference, practically every book written on Marilyn Monroe after 1985 uses Goddess as a reference.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on March 17, 1998
I devour paranoid alternative history. Mostly, I tend to be attracted to political histories, but, truth be told, Goddess IS a political history. Oh, sure, sure, it brushes past all the misery that was the poor, sad woman's early life. It gets more specific when she started associating with the gods. No one is portrayed in a particularly good light and Marilyn is merely the helpless victim of a harsh, cold, unloving world. Based on Summers' apparent fascination with a period of American history (books on the Kennedy Assassination and J. Edgar Hoover), obviously the bulk of the book is on those shallow, tense three years when Camelot was more than just a drunken Richard Harris forgetting song lyrics. And it truly is a tragedy, a murky underworld of shadow titans who dangle the destinies of the weak-willed and the uncertain minds. Summers is a gifted writer and he's excellent at recreating the atmosphere of Monroe's life. The only problem, really, with this book is that it refuses to answer several of the questions it poses, namely, RFK's possible involvement in the likely murder of Ms. Monroe. Summers seems too involved with not besmirching the golden view he'd previously expressed of the Kennedys in Conspiracy (1980) to even make mention of this theory much beyond saying that some people believe it. Unfortunately , this is a crushing blow to the credibility of the book. Regardless of how outrageous certain claims are, Summers manages to field a good many and back them up with a believe-it-or-not list of interviewees and facts. But by ignoring some of the seamier details of certain opinions, by not addressing them even to disprove, the book finally reads like a Valentine fused indelibly with Kennedy family propaganda. Lance Polin
20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on August 13, 1999
This is a sad, compelling, serious look at the life of a woman who drew the admiration and lust of every man she met, but never overcame a characterological loneliness. There is plenty of passion, sex, sadness, broken hearts, drug abuse, and Hollywood name-dropping for any reader - but the real action is the well researched inference that Marilyn was murdered by a frightened public figure. You have to read this to evaluate that claim!
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on August 27, 2002
I read this book back in high school when it first came out in hardcover (I'm really dating myself here). Back then I was a Marilyn Monroe fanatic. Every book, movie, poster, magazine, or collectable I could find, I bought.
I must say that I'm still a huge Marilyn fan and have well over 50 books written about her. To this day, Goddess is still the best written, most profound, well meant, and indepth attempt of portraying her story. If you call yourself a Marilyn fan, then there is no question about it. You must read this book.
Witnesses, documents, and photos (including her heartbreaking autopsy photo) will add to the text and leave you breathless.
15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on April 27, 1999
This is an "exelent" book by Anthony Summers, So well written from beginning to end, this is a book that every Marilyn Fan should have in their bookshelf. You can really appreciate all the time he has devoted in writing "GODDESS." Anthony Summers gives a detailed description of the life and death of Marilyn Monroe. He addresses many sensitive topics that many would not have dare write about, for example the reason why she was murdered, who did it and what was their motive, I love this book exactly for that reason, At last someone dared to discover the truth.
13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on March 12, 2013
I only made it through 6 chapters of this book before returning it for a refund. What it seemed to be was one LONG slog through the entire (mostly sex) life of this woman, interspersed with very dubious "diagnoses" from psychiatrists who only have gossip, hearsay, and letters to go by. I doubt many people would come out the better on a "diagnosis" based on these items only...
And then there are the abortions. LOTS if abortions. I mean LOTS of abortions. I realize the Pill wasn't around then, & the casting couch was, but do we REALLY need to know each & every time this poor woman had this procedure? I'm pretty liberal, but even I got turned off by this CONSTANT barrage of gynecological info on a woman who the book also stresses desperately wanted children.
This book could have been SO MUCH BETTER by just telling its new facts, having a good brutal editing, & sticking to facts that made a difference, not the OB/GYN history of a long-dead woman, & dubious psyciatric diagnoses. Shorter, but MUCH better.
I am returning my copy for a refund -it is not even worth the $2.99 I paid. I like Ms. Monroe, I despise what this book does to her memory......