Book Review: Fallen Beauty, by Erika Robuck

Erika Robuck's previous books have explored the histories and personalities of famous writers, capturing Ernest Hemingway's years in the Florida Keys (Hemingway's Girl) and Zelda Fitzgerald's tumultuous relationship with both her husband and her sanity (Call Me Zelda). In her latest, Fallen Beauty, she again takes us back into the mind and world of a deceased writer, this time those of Edna St. Vincent Millay.

In recounting Millay's days at Steepletop, a remote house located on a 500-acre farm in upstate New York, Robuck has captured the extreme mood swings and tendencies for debauchery, ranging from drunkenness to promiscuity, for which the artist is known. In contrast to this life of extravagance, Robuck introduces Laura Kelley, who is struggling to live as an unwed mother in a town not known for its progressive thinking and a time not accepting of sexual deviance.

By mixing the actual history of Millay's years at Steepletop with the imagined life of a single mother in the same time, Robuck highlights the rapidly changing times in which both women lived, asking the question,
"Was there a way to live freely without being wild, to live a balanced and satisfied life? To have good fortune in love, parenthood and work?"
Where Millay celebrates living a life of passion, finding romance in every corner and taking sexual pleasures from whoever she pleases, Laura is ostracized by her town because of the result of one night of passion. The two live in the same time period, mere miles from each other, but come at the subjects of love and passion from completely different angles. The resulting story of two women at odds with both each other and with the worlds in which they live is captivating throughout, whisking readers away to a time and place so completely that it is easy to forget that Laura is, in fact, an imagined character, while Millay lived and breathed and left us a legacy of poetry to read for generations to come.


Thoughts from other bookworms:
The Gilmore Guide to Books
Jenn's Bookshelves
Book Addict Katie


Note: Thanks to the publisher for an e-galley of this title for review.
Fallen Beauty | Erika Robuck | NAL | March 2014 | Trade Paperback | 384 pages


  1. Love the last line of your review. I can't wait to get a copy of this, the cover is gorgeous and I know I'm going to adore it!

  2. I love your review and thank you so much for the mention!

  3. I think your review rocked. But I personally did not love this book. . . I'm one of the few, it seems. But I thought Millay was cool with her debauchery but talked so weirdly with all of the goddess stuff. . . not my thing. I also thought Laura's story was kind of predictable. I didn't know who her lover was - that part was a good secret - but the second that the mysterious stranger came into town, I knew exactly how the rest of her story would play out.

    It's good that lots of people loved the book, though, and I would give Robuck another chance to wow me.


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