A delectable satirical novel about celebrity culture, journalism, truth, lies, consequences — about the fictions we tell ourselves and the fictions we tell others.
Augusta Price (not her real name) is famous in England for playing a slatternly barmaid on a nighttime soap opera and for falling down drunk in public. Now, she has no job, no relationship with her long-lost son, and a sad shortage of tranquilizers — but she has had an improbable hit with her memoir (which is based on a true story, but only very loosely).
But when Frances Bleeker — an insecure and not very successful American tabloid journalist — tells Augusta that a man she once loved has written a book, Augusta becomes terrified that her life story will be revealed as the web of lies it really is. She sets out on a trans-Atlantic journey from London to California to seek revenge on her former lover — a journey that will require the reluctant help of Frances.
Based on a True Story is a wry and daring debut, serving up razor-sharp wit that cuts through the tangled webs (and cobwebs) of human desire, friendship, and motherhood. Fans of Hollywood — old and new — will embrace Elizabeth Renzetti’s troubled heroine, with her dash of Norma Desmond. From page one it’s obvious that this is a novelist who is ready for her literary close-up.
Perhaps the best thing about reading this novel is that you will laugh out loud listening to these characters muddle their way through Augusta's attempts to squash (or, perhaps, to discover) the "true story." Renzetti effortlessly nails the voice of each one, and she also keeps the pace hopping as the action shifts from England to California and back again.
Based on a True Story is a seriously funny book?
With Based on a True Story, Renzetti has offered up a story that is fun to read – because this novel is a hell of a lot of fun…– but that is also, like Renzetti’s newspaper writing, incisive, street-wise, and written with the deft hand of a truly talented scribe… This book also offers insight into addiction, insecurity, the way our upbringings define us, and the nature of true love, how blind it can be – but also how it, above all else, can be what raises a person out of the depths of failure and despair.
I couldn't put it down.
In her weekly column, Renzetti uses her considerable wit and skill to make any topic engaging. She uses the same talents to make you care about Augusta and Frances -- despite their flaws -- and as a consequence her first novel succeeds admirably.