The Many Lives of Marilyn Monroe by Sarah Churchwell

Since her death, Marilyn Monroe has been the subject of some 600 books, scores of which claim to be biographies, and all of which promise to uncover the "real Marilyn". But the biographies can't agree on many of the most sensational details of the life of the 20th century's most famous woman. Rather than offering another "definitive life", Sarah Churchwell's book looks at the writing of Marilyn Monroe's many life stories, comparing the competing versions of some of the key moments in her life including: her father's identity, her mother's mental problems, her alleged childhood molestation, her teenage marriage, stories of prostitution and the casting couch, abortions, narcissism, her own psychological problems, her marriages to two other legends, her difficulties on the set and with directors, her affairs with one or both of the Kennedy brothers and, of course, the highly charged debates about her death. Churchwell looks at how these stories have continued to trivialize a woman we supposedly "worship" and explains what the stories reveal about our attitudes to sex symbols and icons, to women, sex and death, to biography as an enterprise and to Marilyn herself.