By Ekta R. Garg
February 26, 2020
Genre: Historical fiction
Release date: February 25, 2020
Rated: Borrow it / 3 stars
A young woman fights for her right to steer her acting career, only to give it up for love. The traits she cultivated as an actress, though, help her in her new role as a member of a royal family. Author Kerri Maher novelizes the life of 1950s star Grace Kelly in the humdrum new book The Girl in White Gloves.
It’s the early 1950s, and Grace Kelly is living in New York City. She knows she has what it takes to succeed on Broadway, but her efforts at a big break on the Great White Way yield little. The handful of roles she’s done don’t help her crack the theater code.
She refuses to give up, even if her parents think she’s wasting her time. Her father, a triple gold medalist in Olympic rowing, just doesn’t understand why she spends her days on something as frivolous as playing pretend for other people. Her mother wishes Grace would stop flitting around and settle down with a nice young man to take on what she thinks are the most important roles of all: wife and mother. Grace ignores both, even as their constant criticism hurts her.
Much to her surprise, Hollywood comes calling. The Broadway stage may not have much room for her, but television and film sets are wide open. Grace finds success in performing in live television dramas, which lead to attention from some of the biggest names in the movie business. She finds herself in the company of actors like Bing Crosby and directors like Alfred Hitchcock; she also finds romance with up-and-coming artists like fashion designer Oleg Cassini.
Grace’s star begins to rise at a rapid speed; then she’s introduced to Prince Rainier of Monaco. The friendship develops into a love affair, and Rainier comes to the States to visit Grace’s family. By then she believes she’s ready for life as a princess and his wife; when his proposal comes, it’s a relief. Her burning passion to succeed in acting acts as a counterbalance to her deep-seated desire for a home and family of her own.
What she doesn’t expect is the about-face her life takes once she marries Rainier. He bans her films in Monaco and forbids her from acting in any future projects. Despite persistent requests from directors, Grace turns down script after script. Her relationship with Rainier begins to erode, but Grace reconciles herself to the fact that she’s made her choices and looks for new ways to fulfill the creative energy that still pulses inside her.
Author Kerri Maher reveals in an author’s note the depth of research she did into Grace Kelly’s life to write the book. While some primary resources (such as the letters that Kelly and Rainier exchanged) weren’t available, Maher read other materials and spoke to many people connected to the actress. Her diligence in trying to capture every moment of Kelly’s career and life as royalty afterward, however, tilt toward an overly sympathetic look at Kelly’s challenges.
Her family are depicted as mostly negative influences in her life. The men with whom she shares relationships all seem to fall short of what Kelly deserves. Her life as a princess is full of hand-wringing over the forfeiture of her acting career and a husband who (by the book’s presentation of it) becomes distant and indifferent toward her within days of their wedding. Given all these “woe is me” moments, it’s a wonder Kelly made the mark she did in Hollywood.
Maher’s choice for a nonlinear timeline, too, might confuse readers. The book jumps back and forth between her early days sharing an apartment with other actor friends and her time in Monaco. It’s unclear why the novel needed this approach. The addition of the year at the start of many chapters doesn’t really anchor them in any meaningful way.
The book succeeds in showing Kelly as a forward-thinking, proactive force in her own career. Despite her family’s disapproval—or, more likely, because of it—Kelly fought for every opportunity and more. She negotiated her own contracts and took charge of her personal life when romantic relationships didn’t make sense. Readers familiar with Kelly’s onscreen persona will be delighted to know that she was no shrinking violet in real life.
Those interested in fictional versions of the lives of celebrities will enjoy this book; otherwise, I recommend readers Borrow The Girl in White Gloves.