The young Fleur de Leigh has had a privileged background surrounded by the glamour and excitement of Hollywood life. But as she faces adolescence, this independent-minded, savvy girl struggles to find meaning in a world that thrives on artificiality. Wedged between a self-involved, couch-hopping faded B-movie star of a mother and an emotionally aloof father, Fleur must navigate her way out of this world of artifice to track down what really matters. On her quest, she encounters a revolving door of nannies, maids, cooks and character actors. But it is the friendship that develops between her and the gardener Constantine who is burly, worldly and sexually robust, that ultimately steers her away from her parents' superficial lifestyle and towards the pleasures of the natural world. Seen through Fleur's wide-open eyes, and told in her sharp knowing voice, FLEUR DE LEIGH'S LIFE OF CRIME is an on-target depiction of the madcap Hollywood movie colony of the late 1950's.
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(203mm x 133mm x 17mm)
Simon & Schuster Ltd
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Ltd
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US Kirkus Review »
Being the daughter of self-absorbed Hollywood types turns out to be-what a shock-not much fun in this shallow, mildly amusing first novel. Fleur de Leigh (her name is the least of the indignities her parents inflict on her) is ten years old when the story begins in the spring of 1957. Fleur's first-person narration seems awfully knowing for a fifth grader, but her parents never have treated her like a kid: Mom, a run-of-the-mill movie star now headlining in The Charmian Leigh Radio Mystery Half-Hour, is careless enough to let Fleur see her (improbably) boffing a Beverly Hills cop in the very first chapter; Dad, producer of a particularly demeaning TV quiz show, is wearied by his daughter's youth and naivete. Just as the author can't decide whether her protagonist's voice is that of a pitiful victim or a canny survivor, she also wavers between mining the humor in Charmian and Maurice Leigh's egotism and portraying the pair as unfeeling monsters. The story itself, with most chapters named after Fleur's nannies (few last more than a month or so), is similarly tom between trying to amuse and wanting to horrify. The nannies get steadily weirder (one winds up in a straitjacket), Fleur's parents behave worse and worse (Maurice refuses to take Fleur to the hospital after an accident sends her through the windshield of his Cadillac), and our heroine learns nothing over the course of two-and-a-half years - -except that her best friend Daisy has not committed suicide after being shipped off to boarding school but, rather, is happily ensconced in Switzerland with French clothes and an aristocratic English boyfriend. Poor Fleur's only ally is the Leighs' gardener, Constantine, whose accent is as cliched as his force-of-nature role in the plot. Spottily funny, and maybe even accurate about late-'50s Hollywood, but much too uneven to make for satisfying fiction. (Kirkus Reviews)
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Author Biography - Diane Leslie
Diane Leslie is the winner of the Katherine Anne Porter Prize for Fiction, she has written for the LOS ANGELES TIMES BOOK REVIEW and THE BOSTON BOOK REVIEW.