[Review] Garbo by Robert Gottlieb

Publisher and Publication Date: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 2021.
Genre: Narrative nonfiction. Biography.
Pages: 438.
Format: Hardcover.
Source: Library.
Audience: Readers of biographies, especially those interested in classic Hollywood era.
Rating: Very good.

Link for the book @ Amazon.

I discovered the photograph and bio on the Goodreads author page is incorrect. I am unable to correct it. I have contacted the publisher.

Robert Gottlieb is a writer and an editor. He is a big name in the editor world of book companies. He was the editor-in-chief of Simon and Schuster. He was the editor of The New Yorker. And previously in charge of Alfred A. Knopf.

A review of Garbo from the New York Times.


Greta Lovisa Gustafsson was born September 18, 1905, in Stockholm, Sweden. She attended the Royal Dramatic Theater Academy and performed on stage and in film while in Sweden, and later Germany. She arrived in Hollywood at the age of 19 (1925) accompanied by her Swedish director and friend, Mauritz Stiller. She went to work at MGM without the ability to speak English.

After Greta arrived in Hollywood, she appeared in several silent films. Most of her portrayals are as a vixen and vamp. Garbo’s first talking film is Anna Christie in 1930. She retired from acting in films in 1941. She moved to New York City. She died in 1990.

Greta Garbo’s reputation was a cool, sometimes tepid, Hollywood built image. The camera and lightening enhanced her beautiful evocative face.

She has been linked romantically to both men and women.

Robert Gottlieb has written Garbo’s story to share who she really was or is this possible considering how private a life she led.

My Thoughts:

I first want to express how lovely this book is. It is a visually appealing type of book reminding me of a coffee table style book.

The book also reminds me of a magazine in the way it is a lay out of both images and writing distributed artistically on white pages.

Greta Garbo is not an easy person to write a bio. She liked it that way. She was shy, private, and probably an introvert. She did not like people talking about her and she did not like people talking about others. She preferred casual type conversations. For example, what the person did that day, their routine. And even though she did not have children of her own, she adored children, especially in conversations with them about simple things.

Garbo’s childhood is brief, the focus of the book is her film career, and life afterwards. Gottlieb tries to capture who she really was as a person, but this is difficult, and he knows this. I am thankful he is honest. I am thankful he documents the stories from those people who knew her.

This is a biography that after I read the last page I have to mentally shuffle and assimilate nicely everything I read in order to get a perspective about the person.

Additional reasons why I enjoyed reading Garbo:

  1. A brief summary and review of films, and the costars and directors of those films.
  2. The author’s writing style is casual, with small bites (tiny) of sarcasm.
  3. It is explained Garbo needed privacy. She on purpose hid. And by hiding this projected an image of an obscure mystery person, a person who surely must be doing something tantalizing.
  4. A tell-all book was written in the 1930s by two people who had taken care of the running of Garbo’s household. It shares Garbo as an everyday living, unpretentious, miser, and the opposite of what was expected of a celebrity. I love it that Gottlieb included several pieces of information from those who had observed her away from film making. One of the last sections of the book includes several brief sketches of Garbo from those who knew her.
  5. Also at the end of the book is an interesting synopsis of Marlene Dietrich’s problem with Garbo. One of Dietrich’s hobbies was criticizing Garbo, and often in a coarse public way. I believe this is called “giving a false testimony.”
  6. Gottlieb does not include hearsay. He documents facts about Garbo. She did have a romantic relationship with the actor John Gilbert. It has not been found to be fact that she had a romantic relationship with a friend of 30 years, Mercedes de Acosta. In Acosta’s paperwork found after her death nothing is mentioned in regard to their relationship being anything other than friendship. However, it is acknowledged throughout the book of Garbo’s need for privacy.
Doesn’t Robert Montgomery look uncomfortable and nervous?

I’ve added an additional item to my bucket list. I want to watch Greta Garbo films-maybe all of them.


[Review] Janis: Her Life and Music by Holly George-Warren

Publisher and Publication Date: Simon and Schuster. 2019.
Genre: Narrative nonfiction. Biography.
Pages: 400.
Format: Hardcover.
Source: Library.
Audience: Readers of biographies, especially people who are well-known in Blues music, and the 1960s era.
Rating: Excellent.

Link for the book @ Amazon.

Links for further reading about Janis Joplin.

  1. Britannica.
  2. Official website.
  3. Janis Joplin YouTube channel.
  4. An article from 2019 on Janis Joplin from The NY Times.


Janis Lyn Joplin was born in Port Arthur, TX, January 19, 1943.

She is the eldest child in a family of two other siblings, both younger. Laura was born in 1949, Michael was born in 1953.

She grew up in a middle-class neighborhood in a working man’s town of refineries in the Gulf Coastal area of East Texas.

The story backs up to tell brief bios of her parents, and how they came to live in Port Arthur. The story will also share how her parents felt about Janis’s music career, lifestyle; and the public dialogue about her parents which was not always correct.

The book gives a chronological story of her life from childhood to her young adulthood, and all the progressive steps (sometimes side-steps or zigzags) that led to her successful music career.

Janis died of an accidental heroin overdose on October 4, 1970.

My Thoughts:

It has been on my bucket list to read a biography of Janis Joplin. I have another book about her life written by her sister Laura. I hope to read it soon. Love, Janis by Laura Joplin.

I was born in the mid 1960s. I have 4 siblings that were all teenagers in the 1960s and early 1970s. The brother closest in age to me is 10 years older. He was a Janis Joplin fan, maybe he still is. So, I remember very well hearing the music he played, and this included Janis Joplin.

It’s interesting that each of my siblings liked different singers and groups from that era. So, I had an opportunity to hear different types or variations of music but all of them in the rock and blues areas.

I’m late to enjoying the music of Janis, maybe I needed to live life a little before appreciating her.

Reading a biography of Janis Joplin can bog a reader down in the minutia of psychoanalyzing why she did this or that. In addition, what created the emptiness in her heart that she tried so hard to fill?

She had a varied or dimensional type personality and character that displayed differently to people.

This is my opinion: but I believe she is a tough person to state in one sentence who she was. People who really knew her did not have a short answer. However, she had a powerful voice and a strong stage persona and the unique ability to push and pull emotions into her songs. There are many people who can carry a tune. There are many people who can stand up and sing a song to a large group of people. But it is a rarity to hold an audience’s attention to the point of a wow factor!

I love several things about this book:

  1. I love how the father of Janis has his perspective in the book. Several people are interviewed for the story, but to hear the words from her father, and shortly after her death, this is an important feature of the book.
  2. Janis had said negative things in public interviews about her parents and the town she grew up in. At least the parents have a part in telling how they felt, and their financial help and support.
  3. Several times in the book it is expressed Janis wanted attention. She did not care if she got attention from being good or bad. She needed affirmation and approval from her peers. She had strong insecurities. She often made decisions without thinking. She had an addiction to drugs and alcohol. She also deeply loved her family and close friends. She worked hard in the music industry. She wrestled with ending relationships. She was creative and intelligent. She loved reading. She had a boisterous laugh. My reason in expressing all the above is she was human, and humans are complicated beings. She had positive and negative traits. She had hard life experiences. She had hope for success and love. All of this is displayed brilliantly in the book.
  4. I enjoyed reading about the culture and society in the 1960s.
  5. I enjoyed reading about other musicians from the 1960s.
  6. Certain parts of her life are expounded on more than other parts in social media but not in this book. I’m referring to her sexuality. She had sex with men and women. If she wanted to be with that person, she did. One of the women she had a relationship with was asked if Janis considered herself a Lesbian. The woman answered that Janis did not take it seriously. And it is stated in the book she wanted to get married to a man. My point is this book shows the whole of her life, not just her sexuality and music. I love this. She was so many things: a daughter, sister, friend, lover, reader, artist, singer, songwriter, musician, trail blazer, fashionista, and a small-town Texas girl with dreams of more.

I was born and raised in Houston, TX. Port Arthur is considered small (at least back in the day.)

I read Janis in 24 hours.

[Review] Indianapolis: The True Story of the Worst Sea Disaster in U.S. Naval History and the Fifty-Year Fight to Exonerate an Innocent Man by Lynn Vincent and Sara Vladic

Publisher and Publication Date: Simon & Schuster. July 10, 2018.
Genre: Nonfiction. History. Naval history. World War II.
Pages: 578.
Format: Hardcover.
Source: Self-purchase.
Audience: Readers of World War II history.
Rating: Excellent.

Link for the book @ Simon and Schuster.

Link for the book @ Amazon. At this time, this book is included in Kindle Unlimited. The hardcover is $12.31.

Goodreads author page for Lynn Vincent.

Goodreads author page for Sara Vladic.

Lynn Vincent is a U.S. Navy Veteran, and the author of several history books.

Sara Vladic is a documentary film maker, and a leading expert on the history of the USS Indianapolis.


From the opening line: “She was born from soil as American as the men who sailed her.”
This is one of the best opening lines I’ve read!

The USS Indianapolis was christened in 1932 by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

It was a Portland-Class Heavy Cruiser.

The USS Indianapolis in the final days of World War II had transported a secret that was hoped to end the war. Soon after delivering the secret, the ship is hit with two torpedoes from a Japanese submarine. It sank. Most of the men, both Navy and Marine, were able to get off the ship before it sank. Only 316 survived after five nights and four days in the Philippine Sea.

Indianapolis tells the entire story of the ship and its military men. From the time it was built and christened, to the sinking and survival of the men, the aftermath of those who survived the rescue, the trial of the captain, and the investigation and perseverance to exonerate him.

My Thoughts:

I have a personal connection to the story.

A woman who my mother was friends with starting in 1942 when they both worked at the Houston, TX Telephone Company as switchboard operators, her husband either died on the Indianapolis or in the water. She does not want to know the details of his death. They were childhood friends who fell in love, and they married in 1944. Thelma was a widow at age 18.

It’s been a few years ago, but on Memorial Day, I was scrolling through Facebook and came upon information about the USS Indianapolis group. They have a goal to have a photograph of every Navy and Marine Veteran who was on the Indianapolis. I contacted Thelma, and she and her daughters put together pictures and information to send the Indianapolis group. It was planned to fly a flag in honor of her husband at their memorial museum. Thelma was presented with a flag. This is the first time she had been presented with a flag after his death.

I feel humbled that I was able to help Thelma connect with this group and honor her husband.

There was no funeral for him. There was nothing but a couple of telegrams for her to read.

I don’t know if these are the right words to use, but there is a sense of comfort, dignity, and peace for her in this act.

Thelma is still living at age 96. She later married and had children, but she did not forget her first love, and possibly her great love.

My Thoughts of the book:

This is the second book I’ve read about the story of the USS Indianapolis. The first book is In Harm’s Way by Doug Stanton.

Indianapolis is a difficult book to read. I knew what happened. But there is such a feeling of sadness and loss. But also, a feeling of…. I’m at a loss for words.

After reading the last page. I closed the book and sat in my chair for a long time. It is overwhelming what these brave men endured.

They too at times are at a loss for words. The horrors they saw are unspeakable, but as best they can, they try and give their testimony of what happened.

Much of this book is a survivor record of the events that unfolded. How they felt. What they saw. And also looking at the event in retrospect.

Vincent and Vladic form the structure of how the book is laid out. They share the background information. For example, the history of the ship. The battles it had taken part in. The recording of the survivor’s accounts.

The Bibliography is 65 pages in length.

The book is heavily researched by the writing team.

Before the prologue, there is a two-page spread of the USS Indianapolis. It is a diagram or map showing all the areas of the ship.

65 photographs are included. Most are in black and white.

The story also includes information from the perspective and memory of the Japanese commanding officer on the submarine, Mochitsura Hashimoto.

This is a must-read book if you are a military reader, Veteran, or a person who reads World War II history.

[Review] All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot

Publisher and Publication Date: St. Martin’s Griffin. December 29, 2020. First published in 1972.
Genre: Nonfiction. Biography. Rural life of a veterinarian in England in the early to mid-20th century.
Pages: 448.
Format: Paperback.
Source: Public library.
Audience: Readers who love animals and rural English life.
Rating: Very good.

Link @ Amazon.


The year is 1937 and Dr. James Herriot is a new veterinarian surgeon. He arrives in the Yorkshire Dales to work in an established practice.

Dr. Herriot cares for farm animals: horses, cows, pigs, and dogs.

The various procedures and surgeries are the huge part of the story, including those hard-to-treat problems. For example, a pharyngeal abscess in a cow and lambing in the springtime.

The front cover of the book is from the series on PBS. I’ve watched a few episodes.

My Thoughts:

This is the first time I’ve read any of the books written about James Herriot’s veterinarian life. Although, his books have been on my to be read list a long long time.

Why do I love this story?

  1. James Herriot is a real person. I see him as a person who has positive and negative traits as all humans. I see the obstacles and conflicts he endures. I applaud his longsuffering and humility.
  2. I love animals. I’d like to have read stories about cats. I don’t remember reading in this book about a cat under his care.
  3. I love the dialogue and descriptions with the people he encounters on a daily basis. Some are nice people. Some are not. He struggles through caring for animals while the owner criticizes him.
  4. I feel he is a sensitive person. Sensitive to the animal’s welfare and to the people who own the animals. Not all, but many of the people love their animals. They see them as not merely for-profit farm animals.
  5. I see a growth in Herriot during the beginning of his time working in the practice. I see him as a person who just jumps in to care for animals, swallowing any fears he has, but has a strong amount of perseverance.

[Review] Agatha Christie: An Elusive Woman by Lucy Worsley

Publisher and Publication Date: Pegasus Crime, an imprint of Pegasus Books, Ltd. Distributed by Simon and Schuster. September 6, 2022.
Genre: Nonfiction. Biography.
Pages: 428 written pages. And 52 black and white illustrations.
Format: Hardcover.
Source: Self-purchase.
Audience: Readers of biographies. Fans of Agatha Christie. Readers of women in literature.
Rating: Excellent!

Link at the publisher for more information: Pegasus Crime.

Link at Amazon.

Link at Barnes and Noble.

Lucy Worsley Goodreads author page.

Website for Lucy Worsley/ Blog/ Facebook/ Twitter.


Lucy Worsley expresses that Agatha Christie wanted people to have the impression she was an “ordinary” person, an “ordinary” woman. This is untrue. How can a woman who was born in the late Victorian era who rose above the culture and society of that day to become a successful author of mystery books be considered ordinary? Agatha Christie was a trail blazer in this genre. She was a trail blazer as far as her generation of women having a successful writing career.

Agatha Christie: An Elusive Woman is a biography of the whole life of an amazing woman. It touches on every area of her life. It does not focus on one aspect. For example, her writing career.

Lucy Worsley is a historian and curator. She is knowledgeable about the research process. Her expertise is strongly noticed in this new work.

My Thoughts:

I have An Autobiography by Agatha Christie on Kindle but have not read it yet.

I have three other books, one a collection of her stories, all on Kindle.

I am currently reading The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.

I’m planning to read as many of her mysteries/crime fiction as possible.

I’m a newbie to Agatha Christie. I knew very little about her personal life before reading Agatha Christie by Lucy Worsley. This is a good thing in that most of what I read is fresh. I consider this book a fresh perspective of the whole of Agatha Christie. This is the first reason why I love this book!

Additional reasons why I love this book:

  1. It does not leave me with an unfulfilled curiosity about parts of her life that was left untouched in the biography. What I mean is the bio takes in every area of her life as a person, wife, mother, daughter, writer, traveler, divorced woman, single mother, and career woman.
  2. I enjoyed reading about her work during WWI and WWII. She is quick to enlist in helping with the war effort and wounded.
  3. I enjoyed reading about her life as a child, especially the parenting roles of her parents, and their homelife.
  4. I enjoyed reading about her unique personality and character. Even as a child, there is something about her that stood out as unique and gifted.
  5. Worsley points out Christie’s prejudice opinions about domestic help and people of other races are common for that era. The reader should not be quick to dismiss her or judge her books based on our current history, society, culture, and beliefs.
  6. Worsely reminds me where most of the females of the early 20th century worked. In 1901, there are only 31.6% of females in Britain employed. Most of them worked in the textile and domestic areas. This book will not give a strong history lesson in females in the work force during Agatha Christie’s life. The statistic is given to share the standard in respect to her life. She was expected to marry and marry well. She was not expected to have a paid writing career.
  7. I enjoyed reading about the first serious relationship Agatha had with her first husband, Archie. World War I started to put a damper on their courting. However, they sped things up by a quick marriage in late 1914.
  8. I enjoyed reading about her crafting of the characters in her books. For example, Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple.
  9. I love how Worsley included the writing and publishing of Christie’s books plus what was simultaneously going on in her personal life.
  10. I enjoyed reading about what Christie thought about her own writing, especially in regard to her contribution to the mystery literature world.
  11. The period of time in 1926 when Christie is missing. This period in time is a strength of the book. Worsley takes her time in piecing together the steps during Christie’s disappearance, as well as her return and her own remembrance. It was during this part of the book that I became so captivated I lost track of time.
  12. I read the book in two days!