The Body Double by Emily Beyda
Published: March 3, 2020 by Doubleday Books
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Synopsis: A strange man discovers our nameless narrator selling popcorn at a decrepit small-town movie theater and offers her an odd and lucrative position: she will forget her job, her acquaintances, even her name, and move to Los Angeles, where she will become the body double of the famous and troubled celebrity Rosanna Feld. A nervous breakdown has forced Rosanna out of the public eye, and she needs a look-alike to take her place in the tabloid media circus of Hollywood. Overseen by Max, who hired her for the job, our narrator spends her days locked up in a small apartment in the hills watching hidden camera footage of Rosanna, wearing Rosanna’s clothes, eating the food Rosanna likes, practicing her mannerisms, learning to become Rosanna in every way. But as she makes her public debut as Rosanna, dining at elegant restaurants, shopping in stylish boutiques, and finally risking a dinner party with Rosanna’s true inner circle, alarming questions begin to arise. What really caused Rosanna’s mental collapse? Will she ever return? And is Max truly her ally, or something more sinister? With echoes of Hitchcock’s Vertigo, The Body Double is a fabulously plotted noir about fame, beauty, and the darkness of Hollywood.
Review: This book had such an interesting premise. Something has gone very wrong with a young starlet and she is actively avoiding the public eye. She needs to hire a body double in order to make public appearances while she focuses on her mental health and recovers. I was fascinated by this story and the aura of celebrity.
Unfortunately this just wasn’t very good. The writing was technically proficient, but the writer writes in a literary style that just isn’t suited to this kind of plot. This was a dark, twisted tale but the literary writing style made it difficult to read. I felt like I was being tortured through much of the book because we spend so much time on stupid details. We spent endless pages on what Rosanna likes to eat, read, wear, watch, buy, how she does her makeup, who her friends are, every conversation she has ever had. Probaby a minimum of 200 pages was spent on this. I’m not being the slightest bit sarcastic either. I was so bored. It felt like an interrogation. I was being presented the same facts over and over again and demanded to know what Rosanna liked.
I also, didn’t buy into the premise about halfway through. We learned that it has been a full year since anyone besides Max has seen Rosanna. That’s a long time. She just disappeared with no explanation and a year later this double comes on the scene. Add in the over the top obsession that Max has with Rosanna and I deduced pretty quickly what was going on here. So all that was left was the journey. I already know the end, would the journey be worth it?
It wasn’t. I didn’t believe that none of Rosanna’s close friends was suspicious of how much she had changed in a year. They comment on it and then just casually toss it away with “I guess you have changed since we saw each other last.” No, that doesn’t really explain personality changes. It just doesn’t. Or the fact that she looks younger, a lot younger. They remark on this too and then just ask for her beauty secrets. It was shallow and fake.
SPOILER WARNING: I am about to spoil the end of the book. Please halt your reading if you do not want to be spoiled.
I was almost correct on how I thought this would end. Max was Rosanna’s assistant. He was also obsessed with her. He had set up cameras to film her and all sorts of things. She caught him and threw him out of her life. Then she proceeds to kill herself, knowing he will be the one to find her.
Max becomes obsessed with getting Rosanna back and so he goes on the hunt for this double so that they can be together for real. Our narrator gets progressively crazier as the book goes on. She starts wandering Los Angeles at all hours of the night, swimming in stranger’s pools, leaving blood smears on the pavement outside Rosanna’s house. It was very strange. Then it all culminates when our narrator breaks into Rosanna’s house and discovers that she is dead and decides that Rosanna will use her body as a portal to come back to life. It ends with Max discovering her after she has become the “real” Rosanna and they lay together, whispering Rosanna’s name.
It was a very weird ending. I wasn’t entirely sure what was going on. I had to read certain portions several times in order to make sense of it. It did not pay off for me.