The Magnificent Esme Wells

A Novel
Narrated by: Saskia Maarleveld
Length: 10 hrs and 35 mins
4 out of 5 stars (15 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

From the nationally best-selling author of The True Memoirs of Little K, a deeply felt and historically detailed novel of family, loss, and love, told by an irrepressible young girl - the daughter of a two-bit gangster and a movie showgirl - growing up in golden-age Hollywood and Las Vegas in its early days.

Esme Silver has always taken care of her charming ne'er-do-well father, Ike Silver, a small-time crook with dreams of making it big with Bugsy Siegel. Devoted to her daddy, Esme is often his "date" at the racetrack, where she amiably fetches the hot dogs while keeping an eye to the ground for any cast-off tickets that may be winners.

In awe of her mother, Dina Wells, Esme is more than happy to be the foil who gets the beautiful Dina into meetings and screen tests with some of Hollywood's greats. When Ike gets an opportunity to move to Vegas - and, in what could at last be his big break, to help the man she knows as "Benny" open the Flamingo Hotel - life takes an unexpected turn for Esme. A stunner like her mother, the young girl catches the attention of Nate Stein, one of the Strip's most powerful men.

Narrated by the 20-year-old Esme, The Magnificent Esme Wells moves between pre-WWII Hollywood and postwar Las Vegas - a golden age when Jewish gangsters and movie moguls were often indistinguishable in looks and behavior. Esme's voice - sharp, observant, and with a quiet, mordant wit - chronicles the rise and fall and further fall of her complicated parents, as well as her own painful reckoning with love and life. A coming-of-age story with a tinge of noir, and a tale that illuminates the promise and perils of the American dream and its dreamers, The Magnificent Esme Wells is immersive, moving, and compelling.

©2018 Adrienne Sharp (P)2018 HarperCollins Publishers

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Interesting story

Esme was an interesting character raised by an ambitious mother and a father who was first a bookie, a gambler, thug and finally.a robber. She lost her beautiful mother at a young age, and eventually moved to Las Vegas with her father. The city was starting to boom with casinos built and owned by mobsters. Esme becomes a cigarette girl at 15, a dancer in the casino club and finally the mistress of a mobster Nick Stein. She learns about the violence and killings that her mentor, lover is capable of and tries to leave him. it is a sad story of a woman defined by the hopeless dreams of her parents in an era of glittering actors and actresses as well as mobsters who make appearances throughout the novel in both the city of Los Angeles and Las Vegas. From a historical perspective it was interesting to glimpse the who's who of Hollywood in the 30's and 40's as well as the mob who established Las Vegas as a gambling mega but it dragged in some parts.

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Loved it!

As someone who has lived many years in both Southern California and Las Vegas I felt close to the story. The storyline was interesting and well written. The performance was excellent.

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More history lesson than story

The author has recreated Hollywood and Las Vegas circa 1940 -1950, and included quite a few real-life players in the story. Unfortunately the story itself and the non-real-life characters are uninteresting and flat. Good narration.