Friday, November 29, 2013

Mama Rose's Turn: The True Story of America's Notorious Stage Mother by Carolyn Quinn

Release Date: November 1, 2013
Publisher: University Press of Mississippi

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

Sometimes in life, truth is much stranger than fiction. After biographies from both her daughters, the life of Rose Thompson is distorted, mixed with fiction and the truth is hard to uncover from any single source. This book serves to set the record straight and provide an accurate telling of her life's story as possible through a variety of sources.

Despite having aspects of her life immortalized in film, Rose was never destined to do much upon the stage herself. Through documents saved by family members, newspaper accounts and other supporting works, the author weaves a life filled with ups and downs that is more fascinating that what Hollywood could have written.

I love reading nonfiction, especially biographies and memoirs, so I was excited to see this listed on NetGalley. This book reads like fiction but has enough supporting data to prove much of the events written within. I had seen the movie, Gypsy, as a young girl. I knew the bare bones of the story surrounding the famous women but this book was a more in-depth view, allowing for a better understanding of their actions.

Needless to say, the book starts before Rose's birth and examines the world in which she will be living. It's plain to see that Rose was never going to be a conventional lady given the things her family found agreeable. Despite breaking societal taboos, many of her family members maintained a sense of resilience that proved to be valuable time and again within Rose's own life and the lives of her daughters, June and Louise.

The reader is treated to the delights of living the vaudevillian lifestyle through the various accounts presented in the novel. Both the rise and the fall of vaudeville is featured in the story of Rose as well as the effects that it has upon her life, her daughters and many of the well-known actors of the day. There is a section of photographs within the book which allows the reader to put faces to the names within and see some of their ordinary, everyday world.

I was glad to see that the author was able to maintain a balance in putting together the pieces of Rose Thompson's life puzzle. There didn't seem to be a bias one way or the other in regards to the decisions or actions that were taken. The author was able to present plausible reasons as to why things may have turned out the way they did or what may have been going through Rose's head at the time of some rash decisions. The tone of the novel was very much sympathetic yet realistic in its approach.

The only complaint I have with the novel is the presence of unfinished sentences in some of the chapters. There are only a handful that seem to be lacking a word, but it threw me off while I was reading. It left me wondering what was trying to be said at that moment. Other than that, I think the novel is a solid piece of work.

Overall, I truly enjoyed this glimpse into the lives of Rose, June, Gypsy and their extended family members. It was an informative work and read like a letter between friends at times. Fascinating to see the down-to-earth, human side of those we deem as celebrities. If you are looking for a well-written biography or enjoy reading behind-the-scenes accounts of famous people, this is definitely one that you should put on your TBR list.

Mama Rose's Turn: The True Story of America's Notorious Stage Mother by Carolyn Quinn is currently available in either hardback or Kindle formats. It can be bought at by clicking the link below.
Mama Rose's Turn: The True Story of America's Notorious Stage Mother by Carolyn Quinn

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