34. Valley of the Dolls, Jacqueline Susann (1966)

I distinctly remember my mother devouring this book in the late 60s, and obviously I snuck a look between the covers for the ‘good bits’, particularly anything featuring the super-butch Lyon Burke. Now it’s regarded as a camp classic, largely because of the ridiculous film adaptation and Susann’s larger-than-life persona, and while I’m glad it’s still widely read I think that reputation does Valley of the Dolls a disservice. It’s actually quite a thoughtful account of women’s lives in the pre-feminist era: the book starts in 1945 and ends 20 years later, and it deals with hitherto taboo subjects like orgasms, drug addiction and breast cancer. The narrative structure – three contrasting heroines competing for the spotlight – looks simple enough, but it’s really hard to pull off. I love all three of them, and sometimes I wake up and ask myself ‘Is it an Anne day, a Jennifer day or a Neely day?’. I used to like claiming that VoD was ‘the most important post-War American novel’ and while I can’t really be bothered to have those arguments any more, I do think it should be taken more seriously than it is.

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1 Comment

Filed under My top 100 novels

One response to “34. Valley of the Dolls, Jacqueline Susann (1966)

  1. David Benedict

    Maybe you had to be there then. I like trash as much (possibly more) than the next person but finally read this about a decade ago and was sorely disappointed. Love the idea of it, but…

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