My review for The Queen of Tuesday.
In this review I'm not going to review the storyline of the book, but rather the content.
The author in his afterword says that he read many of the well known biographies on Lucille Ball to get an idea of who she was, but also admits to changing some facts and overall the Lucille portrayed in this book is his version. It certainly is because nowhere did I feel I was reading about the woman I've come to love for over 20 years.
Lucille in this book is by 1950 a washed up actress who has not achieved fame or fortune in movies, her radio show has just been cancelled and she is now venturing into TV as one last shot to have a career. Lucy actually was doing very well in films by this point and making good money. She took a risk going into TV so her and Desi could be together more. The vaudeville act is a key plot point in the overall story of the affair with a man in NYC named Isidore. The act and subsequent I Love Lucy pilot are portrayed as failures. They weren't. The pilot sold the show and vaudeville sold them as a couple to the American people. Later in the 50s it has Lucille driving Desi out of the studio so she can take control, thus gaining back some of her self worth. In reality Lucy never had these ambitions and never wanted to run the studio.
Lucy's marriage is a key point to the story and why she decides to have an affair. Even in the opening to the book in 1950 Desi's wandering eye and openness to cheat is portrayed. It continues to be a huge part of the rest of the book, and Desi makes no apologies for it, even throwing it back to Lucy why he does it. It makes Lucy despise Desi and do so for the next 10 years. It was rough in the late 50s but what this book never camptures about their marriage is how in love they were. They fought as hard as they made up.
Desi's portrayal really pisses me off. Once the show gets big, he becomes an egotistical, demanding person because he is the top dog and wants everyone to cater to his ways. Many seem to fear him and he doesn't care (or even know half their names) because every show must be better than the last. In reality Desi was a wonderful boss, he knew all the employee's names( Lucy too), let the creative team do their work without interference, and when he thought something could be better he used his wonderful charm. The HUAC press conference at the ranch is used and again it's Desi being a jerk to Lucy, but sweet in front of the cameras. If you've ever read anything about that week, Desi was 100% on her side and fought for her.
Then we have the problem of fact changing. The first being that the author knows Lucy was on Monday night but for some reason changes it to Tuesday. There is a long passage that uses Lucille's internal monologue about shooting the first episode, but the episode used is the first aired (not shot). Movie titles are thrown out to illustrate a point of Lucy being forgettable in films but uses films where she has some background bit part alongside a film like Lured where she was wonderful. I wonder if the author even watched any of her pre 1950 films. The author did change the date of Desi Jr's birth to fit the story and I'll say it was the first time I wanted to throw the book across the room for that reason.
The overall story is a good one and there is a beautiful chapter with Lucille and Isidore that I enjoyed. What kills the story though is the author took real people, and their real life and career, changed so much about them and their world to fit the narrative. It would have been a much better book if he just made up a fictional husband and wife from the 1950s who had a #1 TV show, but a failing marriage behind the scenes. The reader would know you are talking about Lucy and Desi. What historical fiction in this case does is muddy the waters about Lucille Ball. I sincerely hope a reader doesn't pick up this book because they like I Love Lucy and think this is who Lucy and Desi really were and the events surrounding them happened the way portrayed.
Two last thoughts. I was surprised Gary was mentioned. And Nanette Fabray???