Frederic Beigbeder is not a name familiar to many but in France he’s a big deal. I discovered him accidentally wondering around Shakespeare & Co in Paris where I found his book ‘A French Novel’. It’s fun, irreverent and highly readable so when I heard about his novel ‘Manhattan’s Babe’ I was in.
The story is tale of the relationship between JD Salinger and Oona O’Neill daughter of the playwright Eugene O’Neill and soon to be wife of Charlie Chaplin. Beigbeder skillfully and wittily imagines how this relationship might have gone as the couple gad about the upper crust world of 1940’s New York before Salinger signs up to fight in WW2.
The tale is then beautifully illustrated by Rafael Arterio.
Chaplin, Hemingway and Truman Capote are also characters in the book which contrasts the highs society world of New York and Hollywood with the unbelievably vicious fighting on the beaches of Normandy and the forest of Hurtgen.
Though I’ve read enough about Hemingway, Chaplin and Salinger to know a lot of the facts pertained in the book the way it was written made everything old seem new again. A thoroughly charming evocation of a time both bitter and sweet.