American Rose by Karen Abbott

American Rose: A Nation Laid Bare: The Life and Times of Gypsy Rose Lee 

By Karen Abbott
448 pages, $26.00
Random House. December 28, 2010

Gypsy Rose Lee’s talk show was a part of my growing up. I would race home from school to watch her show and the cult vampire series Dark Shadows. My mom was concerned about what the content of her show would be and I think she was very surprised at the “tame” and funny woman who sat on the chair knitting, with reading glasses balanced precariously on the end of her nose. Gypsy had a way of looking over the glasses and into the camera lens and winking at her unseen audience.   I adored her. She was glamorous, witty and naughty.  At least that was the persona she projected.

I was thrilled when I received a review copy of Karen Abbott’s biography of Gypsy Rose Lee, American Rose. What an awakening for me and my illusion of the woman who became the legendary Gypsy Rose Lee.   

Abbott has written a fascinating and fact filled biography of a woman who created her own mystique, changing it apparently whenever the whim struck or the necessity arose.  American Rose is meticulously researched and archived book, no detail of Gypsy Rose Lee’s horrendous and monstrous childhood was overlooked. Lee’s mother and the world she created for her daughters is far removed from the Hollywood and Broadway fluffy version. Abbott doesn’t shy away from the dark side of Lee’s life and was given two rare interviews by Lee’s sister, actress June Havoc, when Havoc was in her 90s. The details, such as these are what sets this biography apart from others.

American Rose is full of the famous people from all walks of life who inhabited Gypsy’s circle.  It’s a gritty and often dark world that Abbott keeps flowing with ease and wit. It’s smart and clearly written. More importantly, it’s a great read and one that I highly recommend. 

If I gave a star rating, I'd give this a whopping 4 out of 5 stars.

Source: This book was provided to me by the publisher at my request and in no way affected by review. 

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