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Jane Fonda: The Private Life of a Public Woman    by Patricia Bosworth order for
Jane Fonda
by Patricia Bosworth
Order:  USA  Can
Houghton Mifflin, 2011 (2011)
Hardcover, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

To those of us who lived through the sixties, Jane Fonda (whether or not you agreed with her politics) was an iconic figure, a conflicted, contradictory woman who at times went her own way and at others subjected herself to powerful men. Her extraordinary talent as an actress - mainfest in films such as Cat Ballou, Klute and Barefoot in the Park among many others - was unmistakable - but her life choices seemed questionable.

In Jane Fonda: The Private Life of a Public Woman, celebrity biographer Patricia Bosworth delves into the extensive and eclectic background of the woman Wikipedia calls an 'American actress, writer, political activist, former fashion model, and fitness guru'. In her Prologue, the biographer reminds us that 'Jane polarizes, and the public remains fascinated by her. She has an extraordinary ability to reinvent herself in response to the times ... Jane can will herself into becoming whatever she wants to become.'

Jane Fonda had a tough childhood after 'her mother, Frances Fonda, slit her throat when Jane was twelve.' Hard to get past such a tragedy, especially when her father 'Henry Fonda, always the perfectionist, became even more remote, escaping into his work and three more marriages'. It left her bulimic and seeking father figures. After multiple marriages herself (to film director Roger Vadim, political activist Tom Hayden and maverick billionaire Ted Turner), Jane Fonda is finally on her own with several homes, grandchildren, and a focus on acting (in addition to activism) once again.

Bosworth's biography reveals a woman born with looks and talent, but vulnerable from what life threw at her; a perfectionist like her father who sought and still seeks celebrity; someone who has made a difference and still strives to do so; someone who is generous to her friends; and a woman who finally controls her own destiny. Her story - which brings to mind the old Chinese curse, 'May you live in interesting times', is indeed a remarkable one.

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