This semi-biographical novel seamlessly blends fact and fiction to produce an account of Marilyn Monroe in the final years before her death in 1962. The story focuses mainly on the thirty months before her supposed suicide, when she formed an intensely powerful attachment to her last psychoanalyst, Ralph Greenson. As a self-proclaimed ‘phoney of the bona fide kind’, the novel cleverly intertwines its fictional representation of this enigmatic relationship with historical events from Marilyn’s life and accounts of her taken from notes, letters, articles and books.
The story cements the icon in her notorious world of Hollywood and men. Joe Di Maggio, Arthur Miller, Frank Sinatra and Truman Capote all play their part in the narrative; although even with these glimpses of 50s Tinsletown the picture of Marilyn is far from glamorous. As the starlet’s relationship with Greenson develops and her reliance on psychoanalysis deepens, a heartbreaking story unfolds. The story of a young woman lost in an image, on a perpetual path of self-destruction as she attempts to find love.
The novel’s focus on the internal world of psychology, highlights the thoughtful and intellectual aspects to Marilyn’s character, making the depiction of her emotional struggles all the more poignant. The tragic circumstances of Marilyn’s life are also reflected in the superbly chaotic structure of the book, which reflects the unsettled life of a nomadic Hollywood star with its jumps in narrative time and place. Steinberg’s skills as a storyteller and his attention to detail as a biographer combine to create an intimate and engaging portrayal of the complex legend that is Marilyn Monroe.