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Jane Fonda: The Private Life of a Public Woman Hardcover – August 30, 2011
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"Distinguished celebrity biographer and Vanity Fair contributing editor Bosworth recounds the life story of an American icon in all its heady--and at times, unabashedly scandalous--glory. With consummate skill and insight, the author follows Fonda... Bosworth's coverage of Fonda...is as epic as the life that she chronicles. Reading to savor."
-Publishers Weekly, starred"Watching Jane Fonda wrestle with her many passions has been one of the most fascinating stories of the past fifty years. Brilliant, beautiful, achingly vulnerable, self-wounding and yet with a Joan of Arc sense of self-determination whenever she steps into the spotlight. Fonda is one of the greatest film stars to ever appear on the screen. Her life deserves to be re-evaluated as it is in Patricia Bosworth's Jane Fonda: The Private Life of a Public Woman."
—Alec Baldwin "Patricia Bosworth has written an irresistible biography of the accomplished controversial actress whose roles on screen and off helped define a generation. Whether you love Jane Fonda or abhor her, the Private Life of a Public Woman is a detailed and generous exploration not only of the contradictory world Fonda grew up in but of the many people who shaped her."
—Jeannette Walls "Bosworth’s expedition into every corner of Fonda’s life makes for far more than a spellbinding biography. It sweeps the reader into a cultural history of the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s, when this female icon helped define the causes of the era. The access gained by Bosworth is impressive—lovers, stepmothers, and ex-husbands share their secrets, adding to what will certainly become the definitive portrait of a woman conflicted, torn between ferocious ambition, family, and feminist causes. Bosworth’s rendering of Fonda’s interior chaos becomes a revealing probe into the female psyche."
—Gail Sheehy, author of Passages"Patricia Bosworth’s brilliant detective work has unearthed so much about Jane Fonda that I didn’t know—so much feeling, so much courage, so much hurt. Reading this book, it occurred to me that Fonda, despite her brilliant acting, despite her activism, despite her life led in the headlines, was really the archetypal woman of her generation: a woman torn between love and work, family and accomplishment. Bosworth’s book is far from another Hollywood biography; it is a human portrait and, at the same time, a major American life. Reading this book, living Jane’s life along with her, is an adventure and a pleasure."
—William Mann, author of Kate: The Woman Who Was Hepburn and How to Be a Movie Star: Elizabeth Taylor in Hollywood
—Kitty Kelley, author of Oprah: A Biography
"Gracefully written and deeply researched, Patricia Bosworth's Jane Fonda is not only a first-class biography but a thoughtful,sympathetic, yet objective, study of a central figure in the preoccupying drama of American celebrity life as it has been played out over the past half century."
—Richard Schickel, author of Conversations with Scorsese
—Amanda Vaill, author of Everybody Was so Young
From the Inside Flap
Bosworth goes behind the image of an American superwoman, revealing Jane Fonda—more powerful and vulnerable than ever expected—whose struggles for high achievement, love, and successful motherhood mirror the conflicts of a generation of women.
In the hands of this seasoned, tenacious biographer, the evolution of one of the century’s most controversial and successful women becomes nothing less than a great, enthralling American life.
Jane Fonda emerged from a heartbreaking Hollywood family drama to become a ’60s onscreen ingénue and then an Oscar-winning actress. At the top of her game she risked all, rising against the Vietnam War and shocking the world with a trip to Hanoi. Later, while becoming one of Hollywood’s most committed feminists, she financed her husband Tom Hayden’s political career in the ’80s with exercise videos that began a fitness craze and brought in millions of dollars. Just as interesting is Fonda’s next turn, as a Stepford Wife of the Gulfstream set, marrying Ted Turner and seemingly walking away from her ideals and her career.
Fonda’s is a story of the blend of deep insecurity, magnetism, bravery, and determination that fuels the most inspiring and occasionally infuriating public lives. Finally here is Fonda and all the women she’s been.
Top customer reviews
Maybe Jane Fonda is not popular these days but it is interesting to read how she became a movie star, pursued her beliefs desregarding chauvinist reactions and sacrificed for her husbands financially and physically
A few quibbles:
Fonda's life after the 1980s is given relatively short shrift, only filling about 35 pages in a 534 page book.
There is a reference on page 379 to "William Manchester, editor of the right-wing New Hampshire Union Leader." No, it was William Loeb, and the name of the paper is the Manchester Union Leader.
A few more New Hampshire-related errors appear on page 467, regarding the filming of "On Golden Pond." Bosworth mentions that the film was shot in Laconia, New Hampshire in the summer of 1981. Laconia is located to the south of Lake Winnepesaukee and "On Golden Pond" was filmed entirely on Squam Lake, which is north of Winnepesaukee (the primary town in the Squam area is Holderness). Also, the film was shot in the summer of 1980, and not in the summer of 1981---I was visiting Squam in August 1980 and observed the filming of one of the boating sequences. "On Golden Pond" was released in December 1981, close to a year and a half after principal photography had concluded.
The result? An intimate and very personal look at both the high and low points of Fonda's life and career,including plenty of insightful info about Henry Fonda's often strained relationship with his daughter. Bosworth reveals that Henry's difficulties with women weren't limited to Jane. His marriages suffered because of his distant nature and inability to handle strong emotions (offscreen) .
Jane Fonda had early childhood traumas ( including one that involved her mother) that marked her for life. For those who do not already know about Fonda's mother, I won't add a spoiler. Add that trauma to father's less than nurturing nature and Jane was left with an insecurity that lasted for much of her life. She yearned for her father's approval and this yearning extended to her relationships with men whose praise she also sought.
From Fonda's childhood on, Bosworth creates a psychological study of Fonda.
But even though the book was very well- written I could not give it more than 4 stars. While I learned much about Fonda, I did feel the biography could have been tighter. Will it appeal to more than diehard fans of Fonda? I can't help wondering about that and did find it slow going at times.
Like it or not, there is no doubt that Bosworth did her research - and it shows - resulting in am ambitious work.
Fonda comes across as a wounded, eternally dissatisfied soul, seeking completion and a sense of self through a series of men and causes.
She is a questionable mother, throwing everything aside in the pursuit of the love she never received from her own aloof father and suicidal mother. Considering Fonda is presented (and presents herself) as an icon of female liberation and autonomy, her submission to men is a confounding and rather shocking trait, which is too readily explained and excused.Ultimately, a biography can only be as interesting as its subject, and while Fonda led a fabulously varied and glamorous life, experiencing many lifetimes in one, she remains something of an empty vessel.