If you’re like me, Jacqueline Susann’s VALLEY OF THE DOLLS — the novel — is to you what Chopin’s Minute Waltz is to many others: sheer perfectness. I mean no one can really call themselves a connoisseur of sleaze if he or she has not read and enjoyed this timeless classic. It’s the rule of the law, period. The glitz and glam subgenre in modern literature has really started with VALLEY OF THE DOLLS. Without Susann’s impeccable savoir-faire, we probably wouldn’t have had Collins, Krantz, Sheldon, Steel and so on and so forth. So we owe big time to this author.
When I heard in the early 2000s that a sequel was in the works my excitement hit a new high. Mind you, my trash-o-meter was already at its peak but this news, as all news regarding Susann for that matter, couldn’t have come at a better time. I had just finished re-reading VALLEY OF THE DOLLS for the hundredth time and was yearning for someone to discover an unpublished Susann manuscript of some sort. Suffice to say, I ran to the bookstore the day JACQUELINE SUSANN’S SHADOW OF THE DOLLS hit the shelves. As I began reading, I promised myself that I would avoid comparing it to the original. An impossible task of course, for one cannot go through SHADOW OF THE DOLLS without making some form of thought or connection to the first novel. It is a sequel after all.
In it we find most of the characters (minus the one of Jennifer who took her own life but is still mentioned throughout the book) in the big hair, big shoulder pads era of the late ‘80s which is quite unexpected since the setting of VALLEY OF THE DOLLS starts around the mid ‘40s, or something like that. According to my calculation, Neely would be around 60-70 in the 1980s. But guess what: in this new novel she is still young and vivacious (barely 10 years older) and trying to make another comeback in Hollywood. Anne and Lyon are still married and have a teenage daughter but he still sleeps around, and yes, Anne's still popping pills. Anyway, to make a long story short, everyone is miserable and can barely manage their lives. Yet as in the original oeuvre, their personal struggles make for a fun and engaging read despite the time cheating mishap.
SHADOW OF THE DOLLS would have made a wonderful prime time miniseries but since the frothy kind has fizzled out in the last decade or two, one has to settle for glam in print. Thank heavens we still have novels like SHADOW OF THE DOLLS here to quench our thirst. It may not be as engaging as the first one but it still manages to bring forth excitement and originality to a bunch of memorable characters we thought would never see the light of day again. So kudos to Rae Lawrence (really Ruth Liebermann, director of Account Marketing at Penguin/Random House in New-York) for having succeeded in channeling the Susann touch, and let's hope another sequel hits the printers real soon.
Until next post—Martin