Hello and welcome to another edition of The BBRBF Book Club! Our book this month is The Bette Davis Club by Jane Lotter and just like Bette Davis herself, it’s full of sass and drama.
Here is a plot summary from Goodreads:
The morning of her niece’s wedding, Margo Just drinks a double martini and contemplates the many mistakes she’s made in her fifty-odd years of life. Spending three decades in love with a wonderful but unattainable man is pretty high up on her list of missteps, as is a long line of unsuccessful love affairs accompanied by a seemingly endless supply of delicious cocktails.
When the young bride flees—taking with her a family heirloom and leaving behind six hundred bewildered guests—her mother offers Margo fifty grand to retrieve her spoiled brat of a daughter and the invaluable property she stole. So, together with the bride’s jilted and justifiably crabby fiancé, Margo sets out in a borrowed 1955 red MG on a cross-country chase. Along the way, none of what she discovers will be quite what she expected. But it might be exactly what she’s been seeking all along.
If you’ve been following my BBRBF Book Club reviews, you’ve probably noticed that I’m not hard to please. I have a tendency to find a connection with at least one character, or at least one trait of one character, perhaps a bit too easily.
On that note, I chose this book initially based off of the title. Bette Davis has been one of my favorite actresses for as long as I can remember. My mom introduced me to her films at a young age and I grew to admire the combination of strength and vulnerability within the characters she played, particularly when I was going through the tumultuous teenage years in which strength and vulnerability are constantly at war. For that reason I felt a connection to her, and consequently a connection to Margo Just.
Margo has been handed the short end of the stick in several ways: being shipped off to an English boarding school as a girl when her father passed, never obtaining an inheritance because she was the product of another woman, falling in love with a man twice her age who’s sexuality is questionable, continuing to dedicate her life to him even after she abandoned him at the alter, and solidifying her membership in the Bette Davis club- described as a club for those hopelessly enamored by unobtainable romantic interests, as most of Bette Davis’ characters were.
Margo has obtained a failing architectural salvage company from her former fiance, one in which she refuses to sell anything due to it’s emotional connection to Finn. She’s a borderline alcoholic who picked up smoking after years of quitting. She’s stuck in the past, is a virtual mess, and all of this is brought even further into the light when she flies to California for her niece’s wedding at what was once her former home/father’s estate.
When her niece, Georgia, runs away, Margo is asked by her half-sister, Charlotte (who inherited everything from their Hollywood screen-writing father) to retrieve her spoiled daughter, and the two scripts written by their father that she stole, for a considerable sum of money. Having lost her apartment in New York and accruing considerable debt from her business, Margo has no choice but to accept.
Her adventure begins in her father’s 1955 red MG roadster, one of the few of her father’s belongings that Margo truly admires (and had no idea still existed). She longs to drive it, but does not have a license, so the abandoned groom, Tully-who is old enough to be Georgia’s father- goes along for the ride. Throughout their journey you see their relationship evolve from one of disdain to one of romance.
The events that unfold are quite unbelievable ranging from purchasing Georgia’s hocked wedding dress for $25,000, entering a predominantly lesbian dancing contest in order to break into Georgia’s hotel room, visiting a dollhouse exhibit in Chicago for research pertaining to Tully’s upcoming book, and almost getting run off the road by the drug smuggling finance of Georgia’s best friend for stealing the scripts from their apartment.
I mean, if you want adventure, this book has got adventure.
But it also provides some insight into human behavior. Specifically, human behaviors that we all exhibit in some way or another. For me, the most relevant behavior was Margo’s obsession with the past. This is something I’ve struggled with it since college. I even have a tattoo (from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, no less) that states “it does not to to dwell on dreams and forget to live.”
And yet, I do it all the time. I harbor over the idea that if I had just told someone about my depression in high school, and not passed it off as if it were just a phase, or if I had tried harder to overcome it, maybe I could have done better in school, gotten into a better college, not have had to rely on scholarships from the music department and actually majored in something else. Maybe if I had stopped focusing on the negative aspects of my college- which, in retrospect, there were none- I would have realized that I could handle a double major, focused on biology and set myself up for success as a prospective veterinarian.
Like Margo, I occasionally allow my regret to sneak up and take hold.
While in Chicago, Tully is faced with the prospect of his relationship with Georgia being over. This fear is confirmed by the fact that he has not heard from her since the night before the wedding. As he accepts his defeat, after almost being pummeled on the highway, he and Margo decide to head to New York.
With the screenplays in hand, Margo confers with her friends Dottie and Veronica on the value of the works. It is determined that one of the scripts, a television show finale, is worth millions while the other, co-written by the Orson Welles (another one of my favorite actors), is worth maybe a few thousand.
As Margo contemplates the monetary value versus the emotional value of her father’s screenplay, Georgia knocks on her door. It turns out that she and her mother are communicating once more, she plans on marrying an English rock star, and has come to acquire her wedding dress.
In the end, which felt kind of rushed, Margo goes to AA, her and Charlotte finally connect, Tully makes arrangements to sell the profitable screenplay and he and Margo fall in love.
Despite this extremely stereotypical ending, I loved the book, and am apparently a complete sucker for romance.
For my inspired outfit, I wanted to capture the look of Margo in her father’s 1955 MG. I wanted to stick to the theme of red, white and black, so I chose this Lindy Bop ‘Audrey’ Red Check Swing Dress with my B.A.I.T. Footwear Emmie in Black. To capture that classic 1950’s look, I accessorized with my Hollywood Golden Age Glamour Girl 1950s Style Drop Hoop Earrings by Luxulite and a vintage head scarf from my local antiques shop: Streamline Antiques.
We’ve welcomed two new members to the book club, so don’t foget to check out what all the gals thought of The Bette Davis Club: Kristina (The Eyre Effect), Sara (In a Nutshell), Kat (The Miss Information Blog), Noelle (The Classy Junk), Laci (Laci Fay), and Justyna (Hazel & Honey).
Stay tuned next month for our review of The Invisible Life of Ivan Isaenko by Scott Stambach.