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Publisher's Summary

She was an all-American girl who became a legend of unparalleled stature. She inspired the adoration of millions, and her life has beguiled generations of fans and fellow artists. The story of Norma Jeane Baker, better known by her studio name, Marilyn Monroe, has been dissected for more than three decades, but never has it been captured in a narrative as breathtaking and transforming as Blonde.

In her most ambitious work to date, Joyce Carol Oates, one of America's most distinguished writers, reimagines the inner, poetic, and spiritual life of Norma Jeane Baker, the child, the woman, the fated celebrity, and tells the story in Norma Jeane's own voice: startling, rich, and shattering.

Drawing on biographical and historical sources, Joyce Carol Oates evokes the distinct consciousness of the woman and the unsparing reflection of the myth, writing as she has never written before, ecstatic, completely absorbed, inhabited as if by the spirit of her extraordinary subject. Rich with psychological insight and disturbing irony, this mesmerizing narrative illumines Norma Jeane's lonely childhood, wrenching adolescence, and the creation of Marilyn Monroe.

With fresh insights into the heart of a celebrity culture hypnotized by its own myths, Blonde is a sweeping novel about the elusive magic of a woman, the lasting legacy of a star, and the heartbreak behind the creation of the most evocative icon of the 20th century.

©2001 Joyce Carol Oates (P)2001 HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"Atkinson narrates Oates's fictional biography of Marilyn Monroe in an intense, slightly husky voice that immediately grabs and holds the listener's attention." (Publishers Weekly)

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What listeners say about Blonde

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ARE YOU KIDDING ME? NO UNABRIDGED VERSION?

What would have made Blonde better?

If I could have listened to the entire darned thing, instead of quitting 1/10 of the way through to read the REAL book. The narration was fantastic, and this is an incredible work of literature. WHY it had to be ruined...I have no idea.

What did you like best about this story?

I loved everything about it...too bad I was missing a HUGE part of the point.

Which scene was your favorite?

The one that I read afterwards when I had to RE READ THE BOOK to get the whole story. Possibly the one with Norma in the car, since THAT WAS COMPLETELY LEFT OUT AND CHANGED THE MEANING OF EVERYTHING.

You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

I absolutely adore this book. It's just too bad that it has been decided for us that we aren't intelligent or patient or deep enough to listen to the entire thing. JCO, WHAT ARE YOU THINKING????

Any additional comments?

I am so disappointed. I'd love a refund since I had to stop listening and buy the book anyway, once I realized all that I was missing out on.

56 people found this helpful

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Why not "unabridged"

What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

I hate when publishers only support a summary of the book or an "abridged" version. It's offensive to people with reading disorders who will not receive the full benefit of the book.

45 people found this helpful

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Seriously need to redo the audio!!!

The narrations jumps all over the fucking place, skips some chapters and hundreds of paragraphs!? This seriously annoying and horrible, the book is great though the audible narration is a hot fucking mess omg!!!

14 people found this helpful

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My Own Fault for Not Noticing

I finished this audiobook thinking, "man, that book could have been awesome, but it felt like the skeleton of an amazing book." It was only then that I saw the word, "abridged," on the file. Curse me for being stupid and curse the monster who invented abridgments and curse the punk who thought this book should abridged.

As it stands, this abridgement was fine. JCO makes a few speculative leaps about the inner workings of Norma Jean cum Marilyn, that feel spot-on. It was the first book I've read where someone really tried to understand the mechanisms of Marilyn's genius. ...and she as a genius at what she did, unquestionably. She was just so good; so talented; so funny.

When JCO comes to Marilyn's sing-song at JFK's birthday I stopped listening and watched the footage on Youtube. She's clearly a little tipsy, and perhaps out of her league in that den of Ivy League privilege, but they were only more educated than Marilyn. They were not smarter, and they might scorn her, but they absolutely bowed to her genius too. All she does is take off a coat and take a breath, and the room is hers. It's incredible.

Anyway, I don't know if I'll go back and read the unabridged version now. Marilyn had a hard life, and this is an equally hard book. It's brilliant, but not pretty.

6 people found this helpful

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  • PJ
  • 10-09-18

Great but wish it wasn’t abridged

This is an amazing book and very well done but it was abridged and I didn’t know that

6 people found this helpful

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This bombshell keeps making her way into my heart!

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Absolutely! the author of this book and narrator really brought you close to Marilyn. It was a pleasure to listen to. I couldn't put it down.

What did you like best about this story?

The intimacy you got to share with marilyn from her fist moments to her last.

If you could rename Blonde, what would you call it?

i Wouldn't i think this title was perfectly chosen. it really is a metaphor for the story.

6 people found this helpful

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Couldn't stop listening

Rarely write a review, but the melding of prose and reader was so perfect. I don't care about the historical accuracy ... it was psychologically convincing and mesmerizing.

5 people found this helpful

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Conflicted points of view

While lending credibility to the possibility that Marilyn Monroe was misused and misunderstood, reports of her talent are over stated by the author. The voice of the narrator tells us of her lovers, while secondary reports tell us of her depravity. If you accept only the narrator's perspective, then you will be sympathetic to Marilyn's plight. If you believe the narrator's voice telling you how brilliantly she did in "Misfits," then you'll wonder why her name isn't mentioned today with the same reverence as, say, Katherine Hepburn.

What you do gain is insight into the early Hollywood heydays where the studio controlled all and starlets were merely chattel. If this interests you, you will enjoy "Blonde." As a fictionalized biography, Blonde covers most aspects of Marilyn's life yet she still comes off as vacuous in the book as she did in the movies. As with any novel, the key is in having a charater you care about. It's hard to care for Marilyn. I even listened to the interview with the author regarding her character development, but while I could see Oates' craft in the novel, "Blonde" was only fair.

5 people found this helpful

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I didn't know it was abridged

I read this book a long time ago in book club and we all loved it. Although I had trouble dealing with the strange way the narrator broke up phrases and paused for odd breaths mid sentence, I tried to stay with it as I recalled really enjoying the book. When it ended I didn't understand why I liked it so much back then. Out of curiosity, I looked in the reviews to see if anyone else was a bothered by the delivery as I was, and saw that it is abridged. Now it all makes sense. One long waste of time in my opinion. Read the book.

4 people found this helpful

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5 stars

The narrator's smoky, Peggy Lee voice pairs perfectly with JCO's emotional, sinister, always real take on Marilyn's life. A must read.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Jenny Leask
  • 08-11-22

Abridged

Enjoyed this very much (though there was some peculiar phrasing by the narrator at times) but was disappointed to find it was an abridged version, given that this isn't mentioned anywhere that I can see on the Audible app (a scene was mentioned in the author interview at the end which hadn't been in the audio book, and that got me googling).

2 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 08-10-22

Totally absorbing

The more you know about Marilyn the more fascinating she becomes. I knew a lot of the information in this novel but Joyce Carol Oates has created an absorbing, disturbing and compelling piece of work. It is beautifully narrated too.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Mark
  • 09-08-14

Brilliant performance of an astonishing narrative.

Truly gripping performance of a great work of imaginative literature. Brings alive the period and the extraordinary unsung genius of Marilyn Monroe. If an audio book can be unputdownable this was it. Bravo Jayne Atkinson!

1 person found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 09-26-22

Abridged version

Sadly this is an abridged version which is not noted in the description.
The narrator and content are excellent, but I returned it as I wish to read the full text.
Audible should make it clear upon purchase if a text is abridged.

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  • Nelson
  • 09-11-22

Absolutely riveting

A truly affecting and intelligent story based around Norma Jeane / Marilyn, sensitively told. At times it made me recoil in it’s brutality though it’s never sensational. Moreover, it’s a poetic, empathetic and thoughtful study of a woman who seems to have such little self-esteem and who falls into relationship after relationship with abusive and coercive men.
An unsettling, insightful magnetic listen.

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  • Miss Pitstop 2
  • 08-25-22

Superb piece of creative writing .A must read.Beautifully narrated.

This novel is superb in its creation.So much has been written about the most beautiful complex woman this world has ever seen. This is not what anyone would expect to experience as we are captured by Norma Jean/Marilyn Monroe from her insides. Her duality not just imagined but the stark reality of her living as two people in one body and Oates captures this remarkably well. Marilyn was ahead of her time in every way she did not think like the female actresses or other females of her time. Intuitively she was finding her way out and creating the road map for others that will follow for eternity. The first to have a production company. She had a great future and we will never know what she would have become. What we do know is that she was incredible smart , well read , civil rights activist , yoga practitioner, feminist ,she had humour and daring. We all know she wanted to be loved but she refused to be trapped by the confines of an abusive marriage or one that cruelly mocked her. Or let lovers no matter how powerful contain her . She was a woman of the future. We are still trying to have it all .She was cruelly taken from us. Blonde will ruffle feathers but Marilyn was all about creative expression. She was a superb actress. She would understand this in all its rawness. We needed a book to let us know how human she was , how hard the acting process is, how crippling stage fright can be no matter how talented you are . This book looks at all that and presents a Marilyn that makes us think. She was so strong not weak but she was tired and yet wanted to begin her story again. In her house with her pool. Read Blonde . Hold Marilyn in your heart she is already there. Marilyn/ Norma Jean the brave .

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  • elfsmum
  • 06-09-22

Loved it

Spellbound throughout. Good interview with author at the end. Excellent story telling with good narrator.

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  • Miranda J Murphy
  • 12-31-20

Searingly beautiful and sad swan song to a legend

I have been both touched, traumatised and overwhelmed by this book which overturned my v hazy knowledge and, I now see, lazy assumptions of this iconic woman. This book is a masterclass in voice and narrative and it will linger with me forever. A person too beautiful for this world, who deserves a public apology and a book so moving and tenderly felt, a complete masterpiece. Jayne Atkinson is a terrific narrator and it’s a great production. Bravo!

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  • Hoop
  • 10-08-18

COMPLETE RUBBISH

A fictionalised account of Marilyn Munroe's life - why? Why leave the reader/listener wondering how much is true and how much is made up. It is also reads like a cheap pot-boiler most of the time. I gave up half way through and regretted getting even that far.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 05-11-18

Sensational novel

Great listen. Joyce Carol Oates never fails to please I was hooked from first page!

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  • Annette Freeman
  • 05-05-22

This is abridged

Though a terrific book and a great reader, you should know that this version is abridged. The description should say so before purchase.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Ben
  • 09-14-22

great book, great performance

sucked in from the opening lines and didnt let go until the end. a lovely fictional look into the mind of someone I wasn't expecting to be anything more than superficial. akin to netflixes - the crown. its a tragedy and also a look into hollywood/celebrity culture, the male gaze, and a girl with daddy issues. oates picks up and drops off at numerous points in norma's life always leaving us wanting more. narrated wonderfully

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  • Anonymous User
  • 11-09-20

Blonde is Brilliant!

A superb exploration of a longing for selfhood and the price of fame. Beautifully written and read to perfection! I couldn’t stop listening!