This is Part 3 in a three-part review of the book Sisters: The Story of Olivia De Havilland and Joan Fontaine (1984) Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3
Prior to purchasing "Sisters: The Story of Olivia de Havilland and Joan Fontaine" by Charles Higham, the reviews I had read were almost wholly negative. While I anticipated the arrival of the book, I was hellbent on being pleasantly surprised with the material therein.
Alas, one cannot always get what they want.
The story itself is quite interesting, as the lives of these two sisters are both thrilling and tragic; full of success and defeat; and last, but certainly not least, legendary.
The savage sisterly feud of which Charles Higham writes stands as one of the most iconic and enduring celebrity catfights in Hollywood history. Both women have taken public, and private, shots at one another; and both sisters have been left deeply hurt.
The subject matter being this book's only real redeeming quality, I have very few positive things to say about it. The writing alone became very tedious rather quickly. Charles Higham's prose seems to carry a very slow pace. Because of this, I found myself often bored, flipping through the rest of the book to try and find the TRULY juicy details. There also seem to be a number of factual errors in Higham's story. It also became apparent to me that the storyline could get confusing, the way Higham jumps from one sister's life to another. That being said, one must still give him credit for his ability to intertwine the sister's lives in an accurate chronological fashion.
Poor editing aside, Higham seems to have dropped a few bombshells within his book; most of them, it seems, are directed at Olivia. The following things about which I was most shocked are:
1.) The abuse (mental, physical, and sexual) both young girls endured at the hands of their tyrannical stepfather, George Fontaine.
2.) The accusation that Errol Flynn once, in a drunken stupor, tried to break down the door to Olivia's dressing room and rape her.
3.) The inclusion of Olivia's court testimonies stating that first husband Marcus Goodrich began to abuse and terrify her shortly after their son's birth.
4.) Olivia's alleged extramarital affair with Luther Davis in the mid-1960's.
It was the shocking and scandalous passages that held my attention. Had Higham not spiced things up, it is sufficient to say I would have put this book down. It was my dedication to Olivia and Joan that inspired me to see this novel through.
All of this being said, I would only recommend this book to die hard fans of Olivia de Havilland and/or Joan Fontaine. Only they will have what it takes to finish this book.