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The Magnificent Esme Wells: A Novel Hardcover – April 10, 2018
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“WWII-era LA and postwar Vegas come vibrantly alive in this detailed, noir portrait of a Paper Moon-style childhood.” (People)
“This glittering noirish tragedy, with its lushly imagined period landscape and subtle feminist trajectory, is both fun to read and sad to think about.” (Kirkus Reviews (starred review))
“Sharp’s novel, like Jennifer Egan’s Manhattan Beach (2017), is propulsive and profound.” (Booklist (starred review))
“Esme’s dramatic and irresistible story sparkles with psychological nuance, sumptuous detail, and vivid historical perceptions as Sharp tracks the high wattage success and violence of tough Jews building movie and casino empires while Hitler bloodied Europe. With real-life figures, mushroom clouds rising from desert test sites, and arresting insights into the power and vulnerability of a daring woman performer, Sharp’s novel, like Jennifer Egan’s Manhattan Beach (2017), is propulsive and profound. ” (Donna Seaman, Booklist (starred review))
“Adrienne Sharp brilliantly recreates the tawdry magic of twin dream machines, studio-era Hollywood and early Las Vegas, in this tale of . . . the scrappy, precocious Esme Wells, her go-for-broke parents, and the toll these dreams took on their dreamers.” (Janet Fitch, New York Times bestselling author of White Oleander)
“How Esme keeps her head, if not her innocence, among these fast-living, fast-dying Vegas and Hollywood stars makes Adrienne Sharp’s novel fascinating and rich with secrets she tells with wit and gusto.” (Rosellen Brown, author of Before and After)
“This lovely novel, alternately dark and funny, is a powerful examination of both the nature of love and the will to survive.” (Ayelet Waldman, author of Love and Treasure)
“Consider it your good luck to join Esme Wells as she comes of age with the glamour, gangsters, and big dreams of Hollywood and Las Vegas of the 30s and 40s. Like its narrator, this novel is magnificent.” (Ann Hood, author of The Book That Matters Most and The Knitting Circle)
“Violent and voluptuous; heartbreaking and profound, The Magnificent Esme Wells is about the losses we endure, and the love we keep betting on, despite the odds. Truly, a showstopper.” (Caroline Leavitt, New York Times bestselling author of Pictures of You and Cruel Beautiful World)
“Adrienne Sharp sure can WRITE! And her newest novel, The Magnificent Esme Wells, does all the best things: it transports, amuses, delights and heartbreaks. What a gem of a book.” (Jennifer Gilmore, New York Times bestselling author of Golden Country and The Mothers)
From the Back Cover
Set in golden age Hollywood and the burgeoning days of Las Vegas, The Magnificent Esme Wells is a dazzling, bittersweet story of family, love, and deception. We follow Esme—the irrepressible daughter of a Mafia gofer and a Busby Berkeley showgirl—as she comes of age amid racetracks and casinos, mobsters and starlets, on her path to becoming the first burlesque artist on the Las Vegas Strip.
Young Esme Wells spends her days where no child should. She wanders the Hollywood Park racetrack trailing her gambling-obsessed father, and the MGM soundstages following her too-beautiful chorus-girl mother, both parents bit players in the big, jostling worlds of mobsters and movie moguls of late 1930s Los Angeles. Illiterate, unkempt, intelligent, and willful, Esme is as ambitious as her parents, and these three opportunists struggle to force the world to open up its fortunes to them. When her father moves to Las Vegas just after the war—to help Bugsy Siegel open his famous Flamingo Hotel—Esme accompanies him. And there, the daughter, now a stunner like her mother, catches the attention of one of the new Strip’s most powerful men.
Narrated by the twentysomething Esme, The Magnificent Esme Wells moves between pre–WWII Hollywood and postwar Las Vegas—a golden age when gangsters and movie moguls were often indistinguishable in their scramble for power. Esme’s voice—sharp, observant, with a quiet, mordant wit—chronicles the rise and fall and further fall of her complicated parents, as well as of her own painful reckoning with love and life. A coming-of-age story with a tinge of noir, The Magnificent Esme Wells portrays the promises and perils of the American dream and its dreamers.
Top customer reviews
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This story is told in two parts, vacillating between Los Angeles in 1939, when Esme was very young, and Las Vegas in the early 1950’s, as she pursues as career of her own. The story is told little-by-little, revealing details that clarify the story, making the book impossible to put down. It is an exciting and enticing tale in and of itself.
But, it is also a vivid historical fiction account about the widespread power and control of the mafia in Hollywood and in Las Vegas during and after World War II. and the forces, like the Kefauver Crime Committee, that tried to curb their power and control. The imagery in this book is so vivid and the story lines so good, that I think that this book would make a great movie!
In any case, I fell in love with the persistent Esme, with her dry sense of humor and her street smarts. ‘Watching’ her grow up in this book was both heart-warming and heart-breaking.
I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review.
I really enjoyed it!
What kept this book from being full-fledged 5 * 's, is the back and forth style that interrupts the flow of the storyline.
You will be immersed in L.A. in the 30's only to be jolted into the 50's in Vegas. Esme herself as a 'pet' child and then grown-up Esme as the girlfriend of a much-older crime Boss. Once you get used to the jolt-y timeline it really does become a worthwhile read.