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American Eve: Evelyn Nesbit, Stanford White: The Birth of the "It" Girl and the Crime of the Century Hardcover – May 1, 2008

4.2 out of 5 stars 111 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Hardcover; 1St Edition edition (May 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594489939
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594489938
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.2 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (111 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #173,607 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Brad Hodges on May 5, 2008
Format: Hardcover
In the first years of the 20th century, one of the most famous women in America was a teenager, Evelyn Nesbit, a model for artists and photographers and New York showgirl. She was ubiquitous in advertisements and magazines, and had a kind of innocent beauty that also possessed a measure of sophistication. She was courted by many stage-door millionaires, but it was Stanford White, renowned architect, who made her his mistress. Later she would marry an unbalanced millionaire, Harry K. Thaw of Pittsburgh, who would learn that White spoiled his child-bride and during the summer of 1906, in the rooftop theater of Madison Square Garden, a building White designed, Thaw would murder White and cast Nesbit as the focal point of the first American trial that would become a media circus.

Nesbit's story, and the tale of murder and insanity that accompanies it, is brilliantly told in Paula Uruburu's book American Eve: Evelyn Nesbit, Stanford White, The Birth of the "It" Girl, and the Crime of the Century. While the appelation It Girl is incorrect (that was Clara Bow some twenty years later), Nesbit was certainly the first model to gain national attention. Her humble upbringing from a Pittsburgh suburb to full-time model at age 14 is layed out in scrupulous detail, as is her seduction by White and courtship with the mad Harry. What Uruburu seems most keen on doing here is setting the record straight--Nesbit was vilified by many in the press at the time of the murder and trial. As Uruburu points out, she was more sinned against than sinning, a girl who was neglected by her mother and allowed to be exploited by the rapacious men of the age.
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Format: Hardcover
Paula Uruburu's AMERICAN EVE: EVELYN NESBIT, STANFORD WHITE, THE BIRTH OF THE "IT" GIRL AND THE CRIME OF THE CENTURY is a first-rate, spirited and entertaining chronicle involving sex, celebrity, murder, media frenzy and a dead hippo.

Uruburu's exhilarating tale begins in NYC during the final hours of 1899--an "Eden" where Nesbit, the titular Eve and "Little Sphinx," rises from poverty and obscurity to become the preeminent model and pin-up girl of the day. Part Ophelia, part Salome, the inscrutable Nesbit (also an actress and Gibson girl) captures the fancy of famed architect Stanford White, the "Pharaoh of Fifth Avenue" whose contributions to the "priapic city" included the gilded bronze weathervane of a scandalously nude Diana--appropriately, the goddess of the hunt and chastity--that sat atop the second Madison Square Garden (which White designed).

Notorious for plucking ripe "tomatoes" from the stage to add to his Garden, the married, lustful and predatory "Great White" (who was three times Nesbit's age) fawns over Nesbit, wooing her with money, charm and a red velvet swing. Although Nesbit was only 16, White initiates the fall of this Eve during a night of lights, mirrors, a canopied bed and too much champagne. Awakening in "an abbreviated pink undergarment" and with a nude White next to her, Nesbit is told by the architect, "Don't cry kittens. It's all over. Now you belong to me."

Not quite. Enter Mad Harry--Harry K. Thaw of Pittsburgh--with a carnivorous appetite and penchant for forbidden fruit as well. The heir-apparent to a $40 million coke and railroad fortune, Thaw was a puritanical vigilante with a history of mental illness and a hatred for White.
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Format: Hardcover
I've been waiting eons for this book to be published, and it was 10 years in the making.

Uruburu's look at the life and tragedy of Evelyn Nesbit is a fascinating page-turner that finally places Nesbit in her correct time period. Although she looks modern, she was a girl trapped and exploited by the standards of her time. Her beauty lifted her into the high life of 1900s New York City, but it also led her down a tragic path of madness and murder.

Although the previous reviewer is correct that the term "It Girl" didn't come into play until Clara Bow in the 1920s, author Uruburu states that Nesbit was the "It Girl" of the turn of the last century, and I agree. Nesbit's life and the 1906 murder of Stanford White still fascinate, and this is one of the best books on the subject.
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Format: Hardcover
The author made a serious mistake when she chose to open many chapters with epigraphs selected from Evelyn Nesbit's two autobiographies. Given Ms. Nesbit's lack of much formal education, one wonders if both books weren't ghostwritten, but if they really are her own words, then she missed her calling-- whoever wrote the quoted material was keenly observant, had some interesting things to say, and said them well. Would that one could say the same of the author of this book-- an associate professor of English should know better than to use the phrase, "sufficient enough", and that's just one example of the awkward writing found throughout that more than once made me want to hurl the book across the room. I stuck with it, hoping it would get better. It didn't. Ms. Nesbit deserves a better book, one that doesn't contain such overblown passages as, "Evelyn Nesbit, image of an age, its sins, its soullessness..." (that fragment, quoted here in its entirety, constitutes an entire paragraph on page 11), and one that doesn't race through the last 56 years of her life in 16 pages. One would like to know how an intelligent woman who lived into her eighties managed to cope for decades with the weight of the notoriety she attained when barely out of her teens. Don't look for the answer in this book.
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