The Last Days of Leda Grey is a wonderful book and a must read for fans of gothic and noir fiction.
What’s it all about?
The plot revolves around Ed, a journalist, investigating an old silent movie star, Leda Grey, and uncovering a series of mysteries around her career and subsequent life as a recluse.
We learn about how Leda got into films and what happened when she falls for the enigmatic director Charles Beauvois. Leda’s letters – or “her mirrors” – unveil the star’s hedonistic past, and Ed is encouraged to read on until the truth about Leda, Charles, her brother and her leading man is revealed.
A haunting novel
This book will haunt you well after you finished reading it.
Essie Fox builds vivid, visceral images that absorb you completely. There’s a sensuality to the scenes she creates, with an almost tangible texture through which you’ll smell the perfume and feel the luxurious fabrics of Leda’s costumes. It’s utterly consuming.
The depictions of Leda’s costumes – including an Egyptian queen and particularly macabre snake headdress – are so intricately composed that you’ll believe you are watching on her on the screen, and fully understand why she mesmerised her audience (and director).
Dreams and reality
Mixing past and present, dreams and reality, truth and fiction, Fox creates an intriguing story that is packed with twists. Her command of language is wonderful, and will transport you completely into the world of the novel.
Fox builds characters very well. The reader sees events through Ed’s eyes and is exposed to new information, plot hints and truths with him, making the journey to the end all the more enthralling.
Leda is a marvellous character; layered, complex and beguiling. There are points when you won’t trust her and others when you’ll wholly sympathise with her. She is a victim and a femme fatale, a storyteller and the focus of the male gaze. Her secrets run deep and the way Fox deflty reveals them is the marking of a very talented writer.
Fox’s writing has been compared to Sarah Waters and Tracy Chevalier and I can see why. The book combines gothic traditions with noir to create a dark and brooding narrative that is bristling with suspense and atmosphere. I would highly recommend this to fans of either genre.
I’m heading to the launch of this book at the London Cinema Museum in November so look out for more gossip (and unashamed author stalking) on this title soon.