When Feud: Capote vs The Swans was first being advertised, I was all in. It looked like the perfect show for -- old New York society glamour mixed with drama, writing, and old money. I was immediately intrigued and when it premiered, it was everything I wanted it to be.

Around the same time, I was browsing the virtual New York Public Library to find a book I wanted to read when I stumbled upon a book titled "Fifth Avenue Glamour Girl" by Renee Rosen, which happened to take place around the same time -- pre World War II, and it was about a woman named Estée Lauder.

I was stunned. How did I not know about this book? I worked for the namesake brand, Estée Lauder, and my team and I were deep in the archives and history of the brand at the time. We were trying to learn everything about it (my co-worker was reading Leonard Lauder's book - he's Estee's son) and it was all we could talk about.

Of course I knew some of the story of America's sweetheart beauty brand but reading about it in a fictional sense was so interesting and fun. I loved this book so much and learned a ton, not just about Estée herself but about the time period and what it was like. 

That's what I love about historical fiction...it gives you everything you need.

Publisher's Summary

In New York City, you can disappear into the crowd. At least that’s what Gloria Downing desperately hopes as she tries to reinvent herself after a devastating family scandal. She’s ready for a total life makeover and a friend she can lean on—and into her path walks a young, idealistic woman named Estée. Their chance encounter will change Gloria’s life forever.

Estée dreams of success and becoming a household name like Elizabeth Arden, Helena Rubinstein, and Revlon. Before Gloria knows it, she is swept up in her new friend’s mission and while Estée rolls up her sleeves, Gloria begins to discover her own talents. After landing a job at Saks Fifth Avenue, New York’s finest luxury department store, Gloria finds her voice, which proves instrumental in opening doors for Estée’s insatiable ambitions.

But in a world unaccustomed to women with power, they’ll each have to pay the price that comes with daring to live life on their own terms and refusing to back down.

My Thoughts

The book was well written, well researched, and interesting. I loved seeing New York from this perspective, and I loved learning about something that was so personal to me. Estée Lauder, the brand, is so renowned and it was always a dream of mine to work for the company. To read a fiction book about the start of it, to get to know Mrs. Estée Lauder in that way, it's kismet. 

Gloria Downing is not your typical narrator; she's untrustworthy, flawed, irritating and a bit full of herself. She feels like she is owed the world because she grew up with money, but then it was taken away because her father was a fraud. 

I found myself getting completely irritated with her at times, and also annoyed with how she treated Estée and the people around her. Of course, as the book goes on and Gloria experiences life for what it is, it becomes clearer on why Gloria is the way she is, and she's trying to be better...it just takes a little while.

I loved being inside her head, as annoying as she was at times, because she knew what her problems were, but she had a hard time fixing them. She really grew and evolved as the years (and the book) went on which was lovely to see.

As soon as the book begins, you're confronted with the fact that Estée Lauder might not be who she says she is, which is incredibly interesting and a little surprising because I didn't know these things. She was not all sunshine and rainbows, she was a hard worker, she was quick and a spitfire, she never stopped working for what she wanted. She was determined, powerful and smart. And she wasn't apologetic about it, which I admired.

Throughout the book you get real insight into Gloria and Estée's friendship; you see them grow together, grow apart, and learn that they both have what it takes to leave their mark on society. 

Fifth Avenue Glamour Girl takes you on the journey of starting a business, getting on your feet, falling in love and out of love, wartimes, friendship, and truly everything it means to be on your own. It was beautiful, sad, inspiring, heartfelt and powerful.

If you love the beauty industry, history, New York and powerful women, you need to read Fifth Avenue Glamour Girl.


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