Billy Wilder said Marilyn Monroe was "a puzzle without any solution," but biographer and novelist Charles Casillo (The Marilyn Diaries) has dug deep with his extraordinary biography and finds answers to questions that have haunted Monroe fans for decades. There have been dozens of full-length biographies written about Marilyn Monroe (1926-1962); however, Casillo's compelling and exhaustively researched biography does an outstanding job of sifting through conflicting testimonies and offering a compassionate and nuanced presentation of Monroe's tragic life.
The groundwork for Monroe's insecurities and neuroses forms when she's abandoned by a mentally unstable mother and grandmother, and shuffled from abusive foster families to an orphanage before she marries at 16--just to have a place to live. A modeling job leads her to film work in Hollywood where, she said, "They'll pay you a thousand dollars for a kiss and fifty cents for your soul." Her popularity in movies was meteoric but her desire to learn her craft and pick her projects was met with dismissive condescension by her studio and directors. Her almost daily analysis sessions brought her demons (isolation, sexual abuse and faltering confidence) to the surface and "slowly destroyed any kind of work ethic she had." Crushing loneliness, bad relationships (including Arthur Miller and both John and Robert Kennedy) and debilitating depression mixed with pills and alcohol led to breakdowns and multiple overdoses before her final overdose at age 36.
Monroe's sad but fascinating life has been told many times before, but Casillo's fast-paced, sympathetic and psychologically sound biography stands as one of the best. --Kevin Howell, independent reviewer and marketing consultant