American Rose: Book summary and reviews of American Rose by Karen Abbott

American Rose

A Nation Laid Bare: The Life and Times of Gypsy Rose Lee

by Karen Abbott

American Rose by Karen Abbott
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  • Published in USA  Dec 2010
    448 pages
    Genre: Biographies/Memoirs

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Book Summary

America in the Roaring Twenties. Vaudeville was king. Talking pictures were only a distant flicker. Speakeasies beckoned beyond dimly lit doorways; money flowed fast and free. But then, almost overnight, the Great Depression leveled everything. When the dust settled, Americans were primed for a star who could distract them from grim reality and excite them in new, unexpected ways. Enter Gypsy Rose Lee, a strutting, bawdy, erudite stripper who possessed a preternatural gift for delivering exactly what America needed.

With her superb narrative skills and eye for compelling detail, Karen Abbott brings to vivid life an era of ambition, glamour, struggle, and survival. Using exclusive interviews and never-before-published material, she vividly delves into Gypsy's world, including her intensely dramatic triangle relationship with her sister, actress June Havoc, and their formidable mother, Rose, a petite but ferocious woman who seduced men and women alike and literally killed to get her daughters on the stage.

American Rose chronicles their story, as well as the story of the four scrappy and savvy showbiz brothers from New York City who would pave the way for Gypsy Rose Lee's brand of burlesque. Modeling their shows after the glitzy, daring reviews staged in the theaters of Paris, the Minsky brothers relied on grit, determination, and a few tricks that fell just outside the law--and they would shape, and ultimately transform, the landscape of American entertainment.

With a supporting cast of such Jazz and Depression-era heavyweights as Lucky Luciano, Harry Houdini, FDR, and Fanny Brice, Karen Abbott weaves a rich narrative of a woman who defied all odds to become a legend--and whose sensational tale of tragedy and triumph embodies the American Dream.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. Abbott's work, cutting fluidly between decades and recreating dialogue, captures this dizzying, sullying, transformative era in America." - Publishers Weekly

"The narrative is sometimes bogged down with unrelated content, and the chronology is somewhat hard to follow, but the beautifully crafted descriptions will appeal to a wide variety of readers." - Library Journal

"If American Rose does not excel at biographical explanation, it does have a penchant for ornate writing. Some of this befits the gaudiness of the world that Ms. Abbott s book evokes, but some is just plain overwrought, particularly when it comes to deathbed scenes. As she writes about one figure s demise: Quiet crept in, stealthy, taking its time, turning down the volume and unfurling the curtain, lowering it by inches, until the velvet hem teased the floor and the darkness seized his eyes. If there is such a thing as death by show business, this is what it s like." - The New York Times, Janet Maslin

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Author Information

Karen Abbott Author Biography

Karen Abbott was born January 23, 1973. She is the New York Times bestselling author of Sin in the Second City and American Rose. She is a regular contributor to Smithsonian.com, and also writes for Disunion, the New York Times series about the Civil War.

A native of Philadelphia, where she worked as a journalist, she now lives with her husband and two African Grey parrots in New York City.

Link to Karen Abbott's Website

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