Becoming Carlotta: A Biographical Novel

Becoming Carlotta: A Biographical Novel
: Brenda Murphy
: 397
: Fiction : General
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For the twenty years of her acting career, Carlotta Monterey was counted among the most beautiful women in America. Beginning life in 1888 as Hazel Tharsing, the daughter of a California fruit farmer, she grew up determined to matter in the world. At seventeen, she left Oakland to study acting in London. She married a British aristocrat and divorced him three years later to go back on the stage. After a liaison with a wealthy banker and marriages to the twenty-year-old son of her mother’s lover in San Francisco and to a famous artist in New York, she married America’s greatest playwright, Eugene O’Neill, a stormy union that endured until his death. In each part of her life, Hazel reinvented herself to pursue a new ambition. Intensely shy, she learned to meet the world in the character of the actress Carlotta Monterey, by far her greatest acting role. Becoming Carlotta is a biographical novel, an imagined narrative built on a base of facts with the goal of understanding Hazel Tharsing and what it meant for her to live her fascinating life as Carlotta Monterey. Along the way, it takes us to the cities and the back country of the Old West, to Edwardian London and an English country-house life reminiscent of Downton Abbey’s, to the Broadway theater in its golden age and the tough reality of the actor’s life on the road, and to bohemian Greenwich Village and Manhattan’s arty Smart Set in the 1920s. Through it all, Carlotta is an outsized presence, inventing endless new faces to meet the challenges that life throws her way and turning from every defeat and disillusionment to look ahead with newfound energy and determination.

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