The Actresses by Barbara Ewing
Updated: Apr 19, 2018
First published in 1997, The Actresses in a fascinating book to read in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal. This book is about a group of actors and actresses who graduated from drama school in 1959 and who are reunited at a class reunion. They are all now fifty plus, and some are hugely successful, for others, the parts have long since dried up.
There is quite a cast of characters. Terence Blue is a massive Hollywood star. Anthony Bonham is also a very successful famous actor, whereas his wife Pauline O’Brien has given up on her acting dreams to raise their family. Juliet Lyall is the most successful actress from their class, but her professional happiness has come at the cost of her personal happiness. Molly McKenzie has a much younger lover but is starting to notice the parts drying up as she becomes an actress of a ‘certain age.’ Frances Kitson and Emily Lou Brown, and many other actresses from the class of 59 are struggling with their careers. Then there is the mystery of Nicola Abbott, who was the most promising of their class, who disappeared without a trace after a stunning movie performance that has stood the test of time. Her disappearance is the great mystery of the book, which is only resolved at the end of the book.
After the reunion, Terence Blue is accused of rape, and this case dominates the media for months, and for everyone at the reunion the past comes flooding back. We learn about their triumphs and disasters, as they continue to pursue a career in acting. We also learn how much all their lives are interconnected. This is a book that looks not just at their professional lives, but also their many affairs and marriages.
Barbara Ewing, is herself, a very successful actress, so this novel feels like an insider’s peek into the acting world. She writes about things that people would only know from personal experience, and from friends who work in the industry. Thankfully things are changing, but this novel is a world of the ‘casting couch’, sexism and ageism – and it seems particularly brutal for women, especially as they get older. But it’s a tough profession even for the men. The Actresses is a compelling, insightful read, beautifully written, and extremely well plotted. I would highly recommend this character-driven novel, that at its heart is a thriller mystery.
Reviewer: Karen McMillan
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