My Life in Black and White by Kim Izzo

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My Life in Black and White by Kim Izzo

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Kenzie Millar
Reviewed by Kenzie Millar
Summary: When Clara Bishop’s husband leaves her for a younger model, her mother reminds her of the family curse. The women in her family are never the femme fatales, they are always the ones that get left alone. But Clara is not willing to accept this. She may be unable to finish a screenplay, but she might just be able to write another ending for herself.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 305 Date: May 2013
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
ISBN: 978-1444737714

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My Life in Black and White starts off in a police station in England. The film noir theme that permeates the novel begins immediately. Clara Bishop is dressed in a gold evening gown, and treats the police officer who is interviewing her just as a femme fatale would. This girl has sass. But when she begins to recount her tale, it is clear this is a new development. The old Clara describes her life as something from a screwball comedy, not a film noir. How does a screenwriter-slash-gossip-columnist from LA end up being interviewed about an assault in England?

When Clara’s reality TV director husband leaves her for a young, blonde waitress-slash-actress, she seeks solace from her mother. But her mother just reminds her of the family curse. Both her mother and grandmother were also left by their husbands for other women. And solace from Marjorie, her mother, comes in the form of hints that if Clara had maybe tried a little harder with her appearance, or her screenwriting, maybe Dean wouldn’t have left her. When Marjorie decides she is going to clear out some of Clara’s grandmother’s dresses from her time as actress and wardrobe assistant in 1950s Hollywood, Clara decides that maybe trying on some of the glitz, glamour and feminine appeal would help. As well as making any reader want to rush out to the nearest vintage shop, these dresses inspire Clara to follow her husband to London and fight for him.

Clara is a wonderful character and narrator. Although she begins the novel as a 'good girl' this isn’t in an annoying way. She has clearly had some bad luck in her life, and she is perhaps unclear as to what she truly deserves. As well as a mystery, the novel is almost a coming-of-age story. Clara is in her thirties, but she still needs to find who she really is. She does this through her adventures in London and her family history. Izzo creates interesting parallels between Clara and the lives of her mother and grandmother, making all of Clara’s discoveries even more poignant.

The film noir references made this novel great and original for me. As well as creating the noir mystery and glamour, Izzo also uses these references for humour. Intially, many of the other characters seem to be stereotypes from this genre. However this is what Izzo does so well. What Clara sees as stereotypes are always more complicated than it might first appear.

My only negative with this book was that the ending felt a little rushed. But really the ending did just need to tie up a few loose ends, the main plot of the novel is what makes it great and it more than makes up for the last section. Izzo uses film and historical references in such an original way, it makes the book so much more than a simple story of a woman scorned. Although Izzo’s purpose is clearly to complicate the noir themes she uses, she does it consistently from the perspective of a fan.

For a book working with noir themes (although perhaps more actual noir rather than humour-slash-noir) and a female lead, Megan Abbott’s Die a Little might appeal to fans of the genre.

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Buy My Life in Black and White by Kim Izzo at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy My Life in Black and White by Kim Izzo at


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