In “A Woman of Integrity,” fifty-something fading actress Laura is faced with the loss of her agent, her career, her flat, and possibly her self-respect. Invited to participate in a documentary about her youthful idol, silent cinema actress and acclaimed photographer Georgie Hepburn, she jumps at the chance, only to discover that those she counted as friends are looking out for their own interests, not hers, and that integrity has a high price.
The narrative alternates between Laura’s story and excerpts from Georgie’s unpublished notes and memoirs, bringing the two women’s stories together until Laura discovers the secrets that Georgie revealed to no one, not even those most directly affected by them. The effect heightens the tension, as each woman struggles with the question of what she is willing to do to preserve and further her career. Take demeaning roles? Sleep with the producer? Manipulate others as they have manipulated you? Good roles are scarce and woman does not live by fame alone, necessitating a constant cost/benefit analysis by the protagonists. Some might, like me, find Laura’s scruples a little overly precious at times, but she is undoubtedly a woman who is finally waking up to the need to live her life on her own terms and do something that is meaningful to her, rather than chasing after Hollywood’s brass ring. And Georgie herself is a delightful character, full of glamor and guts as a star of the silent screen, then a pioneering aviatrix, and finally a photographer who turns away from the glitz of the A-list in favor of chronicling the ailing and elderly. A fascinating read about women determined to run their lives instead of having their lives run for them.
My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing a review copy of this book. All opinions are my own.
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