Reading a one-time ever so shocking novel a good fifty years after its release is always going to require that book to stand on its own merits. Society will have moved on and so whatever was once salacious enough to set tongues wagging, is likely to be low-proof beer now. Certainly, VALLEY OF THE DOLLS’ frankness about drugs, sex and sexuality now seems particularly tame. I’m sure there are YA novels these days which feel rawer than this.
So, stripped of the whiff of scandal which once surrounded its name, is the book any good?
And the honest answer is: I’m not really sure.
I’ll say without a doubt that it’s annoyingly superficial and facile. It really does take an odd kind of talent to follow characters across twenty years, let us know their hopes and dreams and frustrations, and still make them seem like ciphers. Although it’s a talent I’m not sure most writers would want.
As such reading VALLEY OF THE DOLLS was for me a frustrating experience – and yet read it I did. I didn’t give up. Even as I grumbled with frustration at it, I persevered. And I’m not quite sure why. All I can think is that there’s something compulsive and hypnotic in its badness that wouldn’t let go.
VALLEY OF THE DOLLS really isn’t a good book. It’s not awful, but it’s undoubtedly a bad read. It is however held out as one of the first of the big trashy blockbuster novels, and trash it most definitely is.
Maybe then that’s the reason why I read all of it. As with proper, unashamed trash – be it a TV show or a film or a novel – if you’re in the right kind of mood, you’ll stick with it no matter how many braincells you think it’s costing you.
Would I recommend it?
No, not at all.
Do I regret reading it?
You know what, I don’t. I made my bed, took my red pills, and I was more than happy to lie in it.
My debut novel, THE WANNABES – which has been out of print for a little while – is now available for free! A supernatural thriller of beautiful actresses and deadly ambition in London town, it’s well worth your time. You can get your copy here!