Book Review for “Woman Enters Left” by Jessica Brockmole.
Summary: “In the 1950s, movie star Louise Wilde is caught between an unfulfilling acting career and a shaky marriage when she receives an out-of-the-blue phone call: She has inherited the estate of Florence “Florrie” Daniels, a Hollywood screenwriter she barely recalls meeting. Among Florrie’s possessions are several unproduced screenplays, personal journals, and—inexplicably—old photographs of Louise’s mother, Ethel. On an impulse, Louise leaves a film shoot in Las Vegas and sets off for her father’s house on the East Coast, hoping for answers about the curious inheritance and, perhaps, about her own troubled marriage. Nearly thirty years earlier, Florrie takes off on an adventure of her own, driving her Model T westward from New Jersey in pursuit of broader horizons. She has the promise of a Hollywood job and, in the passenger seat, Ethel, her best friend since childhood. Florrie will do anything for Ethel, who is desperate to reach Nevada in time to reconcile with her husband and reunite with her daughter. Ethel fears the loss of her marriage; Florrie, with long-held secrets confided only in her journal, fears its survival.”
Age: Adult; Genres: Literary, Fiction, Women, LGBTQ+, Romantic; Settings: Historical, USA: New Jersey, Nevada, California, Cross-Country Road Trip; Other Categories: Novel.
The first thing I need to say about this book is – what took me so long? I can hardly believe this because one of the first ARCs I ever read was Brockmole’s debut novel “Letters from Skye.” I enjoyed that book so much that I purchased a print copy for my sister-in-law (and she loved it too). Yes, I know that she contributed to the WWI anthology “Fall of Poppies” and I recall enjoying her short story immensely. I heard she wrote another novel, “At the Edge of Summer” but I somehow lost track of it. Then last year I saw this novel on sale, and bought it on an impulse buy. Why it took me so long to read this, is totally beyond me! I’m just glad I finally corrected this error, and I hope I won’t go too long to read her other book. Now, with that out of the way…
Yes, this is a really fascinating book, mostly because it feels so easy, so simple, and yet it is very complex. It all starts with Louise in Hollywood, doing well with her acting career, when she finds out she’s the sole heir to the estate of a woman she’s only met a handful of times, mostly in passing. Although the estate isn’t worth much, what Florrie also leaves Louise are her unproduced movie scripts, which are essentially priceless. This sets Louise off on a journey of investigation into many elements. These include her mother’s relationship with Florrie, her father’s relationship with her mother and with Florrie, the war-work that gave both of these women cancer, and her own relationship with her own husband, Arnie. To top all this off, Louise is also on the path of self-discovery, about her own past, her mother’s past, and what she wants for her own future.
From the author’s note, I can see that Brockmole went down a few rabbit holes while researching this novel. One of these were the legal battles brought by women who were subjected to radium poisoning working in factories during the war. Another had to do with the McCarthy era in Hollywood, where the investigations through the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) ended up in ruining the careers of many people through their blacklisting of innocent people as being “communists”. To include all this, Brockmole breaks the prose up with snippets of dialogue out of one of Florrie’s unproduced screenplays, as well as diary entries by both Florrie and Ethyl from their road trip together, which somewhat mirror each other. Later in the novel, she also adds a few newspaper articles regarding the suits brought by women who were victims of the radiation poisonings from those factories. Again, you’d think with all this added in with everything else that this book would be confusing, and yet it is just as smooth as silk, and flows beautifully.
Look, I know I could go on and on about this book, but the bottom line is that I’m sorry that I forgot what an amazing author Brockmole is, and I promise I’ll get to her other book and keep a sharp eye out for anything she publishes in the future. This novel is warm, and funny, as well as heartbreaking without ever getting overly sentimental. While there are a whole lot of romantic involvements here, I wouldn’t call this a romance novel, but rather a deep dive into what makes a truly loving relationship – between lovers as well as between parents and their children. Furthermore, it is all told in such lovely prose that you might want to start reading it again the minute you finish the last page (I almost did, and I never reread books). Therefore, I have to wholeheartedly recommend this novel and give it a full five out of five stars. Thanks, Jessica!
“Woman Enters Left” by Jessica Brockmole is available (via the following affiliate links) from Amazon, Waterstones, WHSmith, Walmart (Kobo) US (eBooks and audiobooks), the website eBooks.com, iTunes (iBook or audiobook), The Book Depository (free worldwide delivery), new or used from Alibris, used from Better World Books (promoting libraries and world literary), as well as from as well as from Bookshop.org and Bookshop.uk (to support independent bookshops, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic) or an IndieBound store near you.