Picks and Pans Review: Queenie

updated 04/29/1985 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 04/29/1985 01:00AM

by Michael Korda

Queenie Kelley is a beautiful little Calcutta girl whose mother is half Indian; her father, an Irish ne'er-do-well, has disappeared. Queenie persuades her doting uncle to steal a diamond bracelet to finance her escape to London with him. Then from a job as a stripper in a sleazy club, Queenie uses her beauty to become Dawn Avalon, an international movie star. The career of this fictional heroine closely resembles that of actress Merle Oberon, the author's aunt for six years, when she was married to moviemaker Alexander Korda. And it is Oberon whom the reader will envision throughout every descriptive passage: "Everybody stared at her, even the other stars. She was not only the most beautiful woman in the room—she was also the richest and now the most powerful." The best parts of this big novel are the early scenes in India—Korda supplies a lot of imaginative details about a sulky little girl who grows up to discover that she has an extraordinary power over men. The Hollywood stuff is too familiar. So is the plot about a star getting mixed up with gangsters, marrying often, getting face-lifts and enjoying the heck out of sex. Korda himself has written about this before in Charmed Lives, his nonfiction account of his noted relatives. The top editor at Simon & Schuster, in charge of so many best-sellers that he is a legend, Korda keeps everything moving, and he does have a sense of humor. Otherwise why would the book jacket quote Father Andrew Greeley's classically overblown comment on Queenie: "It has the feel of Greek tragedy and the overtones of a scriptural parable"? (Linden Press, $17.95)

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