Miss Nesbit, Recollected – “American Eve” by Paula Uruburu
For those (like me) who only know Evelyn Nesbit as a character in E.L. Doctorow’s brilliant novel “Ragtime” (or the wonderful musical based off it) I encourage you to get this book in your hands right now.
For those who have no idea who Evelyn Nesbit was, but like their American history/biographies seedy, sexy, and twisted, this is also a book for you.
In 1900, Evelyn Nesbit was sixteen. She was also considered the most beautiful woman in America. Photographed and painted by artists and photographers, and causing a stir in roles in shows, Evelyn was the original “It” girl.
Behind the gorgeous face was a young woman with issues. After her father’s death, her mother had a hard time supporting Evelyn and her younger brother. So, when Evelyn started making money as a model, it seemed the answer to a prayer. Little did the family know the circles that young Evelyn would soon be running in. Lusted after by millionaires and caught up in their perversions, this was a young woman who had to grow up incredibly fast.
After a twisted relationship with architect Stanford White, Evelyn wound up marrying a millionaire named Harry Thaw – unaware of the skeletons in Harry’s own closet. (Namely, a tendency to lure young boys and girls to his place, only to flog them.) Driven insane by jealousy of Stanford’s having taken Evelyn’s virginity and “ruining her,” Thaw wound up shooting White in a theater full of people, thereby committing what was then known as “The Crime of the Century” and launching a trial to rival the O.J. Simpson trial.
Victorian society had it’s weird fascinations with youth and sex, and “American Eve” illuminates that while at the same time never crossing the line into truly creepy. Uruburu clearly knows her subjects incredibly well, and shares the story in great detail and with great relish. Evelyn, her mother, White, Thaw, and all the other characters mentioned are fascinating, and it’s literally a book you won’t be able to put down.
What a read! Wow!