Valley Of The Dolls by Jacqueline Susann | Book Review [spoiler free]


Anne, Neely, and Jennifer are three young women trying to make it in the dazzling city of New York during the aftermath of WWII. Anne has recently moved from a small town and has fulfilled her dream of moving to this vast city where she quickly gets employed by a talent agency as their secretary. Neely is seventeen and waiting for her big break in the entertainment industry, she's sure of herself and refuses to accept less than what she deserves. Jennifer is the oldest of the three, a woman forced into this life of beauty and perfection in a ditch effort to get herself married, with children, and happy. She sends money back to her mother due to the guilt-ridden calls she receives from her, and is usually found hanging off a different man's arm selling her soul for a piece of fame and maybe a mink coat.

Prior to picking up this novel, I had no idea what the story was actually about. I haven't ever seen the movie and knew only that it was said to be ahead of it's time and a huge step for women in general. It was written about three sensual women and not targeted toward men. Basically the Sex And The City of it's time.

Though the three women's lives intertwine, each character gets her own path in this book and through the years we read how each finds herself turning to pills--otherwise known as 'Dolls'--to cope with different aspects of their lives. I feel the need to review each story separately to give you a more in depth look/review into the novel. So, let's get to it.

Anne is arguably the main focus of the story, she seems to be the orbit and Jennifer and Neely hover around her. She's the classic symbol of the virgin Mary who hasn't yet realised how beautiful she is. Through her secretarial work, she meets Lyon. A man recently returned from the war who hopes to write a book about his experiences, he is often found with a different woman hanging from his arm and everyone warns good-girl Anne just that. Yet she can't help feeling drawn to the charming English man. I liked Anne during the first half of the book, she was the character who had her head on her shoulders and was the most relateable of the three, yet she was beyond fickle to the point of being annoying. I kept waiting for her character to come into her own, to realise that she deserves more than what she's given, and become the feminist we all want to read about but it just never happened. I get that this book was written in a different time, but I think one of the main reasons it got so much recognition as a 'seductive mind-blowing ahead of it's time' novel was due to strong-minded women Susann wrote. The three enjoyed sex, knew their beauty, and sought after men instead of waiting to be courted. Anne never changed from being the innocent one. One could argue that this was the entire point, that she never changed herself, but the world changed her actions thus the 'Dolls'. The people she surrounded herself with turned her into a doll, of sorts, if you enjoy a good pun. I just wanted a more hardcore ending for the woman who constantly got backlash and taken for grated for her success.

Speaking of success, we have Neely. The youngest character who is seeking fame as though it will solve all her problems. She's the charming girl-next-door who vows to quit her career the moment she marries, to have babies and be a good wife. When Anne pulls a few strings and gets Neely a bigger part in the theatre production she's a part of, she's quickly and surprisingly shot to fame. She's the talk of the town, the newly discovered talent that everyone wants a part of. But it breaks her in more ways than one. She can't handle stardom and it turns her into one of the most vile characters I've ever had the displeasure of reading. I wanted to reach into the book and shake her so many times. She's the epitome of all those celebrities we read about who go off the rails once their name is in shining lights. Her story is the most drastic plot wise, as it takes various turns that I didn't see coming.

Jennifer, the third and final main character, was my favourite. Not as young as everyone thinks, Jennifer takes life with more gusto than Anne or Neely. She feels as though her clock is ticking down in the entertainment industry and longs to settle down with a man who cares for more than just her looks, because boy, does she have looks. She's the sex symbol of New York, women send her death stares as men ogle her with admiration. Jennifer could've easily become the vapid character that Neely was, but she was instead the most graceful of the three. Her story was one of great sadness as we see her constantly belittled and yet put above others solely because of the way she looks, she's the definition of what fame used to be. What I most enjoyed about her character was how modern she was for the time, she was a girls-girl and never put down other women to lift herself. She had insecurities that are nowadays talked about. She would've thrived in the modern day world.

The book spans over many years and because of that we get to see each woman go through big life changes. Marriages, children, flings, deaths, cosmetic surgery, and the drug dependency. I wasn't expecting such a length of time to transpire throughout the book as Anne's first chapter took up almost 200 pages and yet only covered a week or so of her life. Because of that, the pacing felt really off. I had whiplash from the amount of times we skipped a few years just as I got into the current situation one of the ladies found herself in. Did it make the story more interesting? Perhaps, but yet I still wish it hadn't skipped so much time. Give me another 100 pages to make this happen, I wouldn't of minded.

It's surprising how much I fell in love with this book as it isn't usually something I would pick up. And to be entirely honest, I can't put my finger on why this book ran away with my heart. Perhaps a mix of the flawed women, forbidden romances, and almost Gossip Girl like world. In a way it reminded me of The Seven Husband Of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid, which was my favourite read of last year. Probably down to the old Hollywood feel and fame hungry men who you really want to punch in the face.

If this book has been on your TBR for a long time but you've been too intimidated to pick it up, this is your push. It read surprisingly easy and felt like it could've easily been released last year. Though as with all older released books, certain aspects of the story did not age well. The constant negative use of the word 'fag' and how anti-gay the characters were really bothered me, and though I shouldn't really take away some of my rating to that as it was a problem of the time not the author, it still kept throwing me out of the story and left a horrible taste in my mouth. So, it lost half a star and was downgraded to a 4.5. Fair? No. But necessary in the sense of rating from my enjoyment.

4.5/5 stars.


  1. I loved this book so much! You need to check out the sequel called Shadow of the Dolls.

    1. There's a sequel? I thought it was unfinished as the author passed away or something! Ooh, thanks for letting me know!


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