Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Last Dance with Valentino - Daisy Waugh

Last Dance with ValentinoRudy Guglielmi, gigolo, exhibition dancer and handsome man, is the lover of a wealthy married woman, Blanca de Saulles, when Jennifer Doyle arrives to be the nanny of her son. Jennifer is an immigrant from England, together with her father, a portrait painter who likes to drink too much, and he soon falls in love with Mrs de Saulles whilst attempting to complete her portrait.   Rudy and Jennifer meet one day, and in the course of that day dance on the terrace and find themselves drawn to each other. He will become Rudolf Valentino (the first international sex symbol), and she just may be the mysterious Jennifer he calls for on his deathbed.

They loose contact with each other for several years, although both are living and working in Hollywood. There are some very nice studies of early Hollywood characters woven in here, Mary Pickford, Anita Loos, Clara Bow amongst them. Not too much of the famous names, but the characters come alive on the page; Jennifer herself, who is taken up by Perry, a coke-sniffing dealer, who she can't resist (the sex is brilliant); the twins Phoebe and Lorna who become Jennifer's real friends (one who dyes her hair white blonde and dresses in black, and the other who dyes her hair black and dresses in white). There is a real feel for the way Hollywood operated back then and it doesn't seem to have changed much at all. This is a book about the movies as well as the characters and whether or not it was written with this in mind, it would make a brilliant film.

Daisy Waugh, grandaughter of novelist Evelyn Waugh, and journalist, author and mother of three has pulled off quite a clever stunt, weaving truth and fiction together in a dual time line love story which must have an unhappy ending. For Valentino did die a horrible death and there was a reported deathbed declaration of love for a "Jennifer". This then, is Jennifer's story - involving love, hate, life, death and cocaine - and I couldn't put it down.

(this is a copy of my Amazon review)