Jacqueline Susann’s Dolores is her best

It’s no oversight that Jacqueline Susann’s Dolores omits the usual disclaimer that any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidence.

Dolores with sunglasses pushed up on her forehead
Sunglasses protect the ex- first lady Dolores Ryan’s privacy.

Title character Dolores Ryan is the widow of a popular U.S. president assassinated in a southern state; details about that assassination are echoed in Dolores as are other society gossip column details about Jack Kennedy.

Susann takes those tidbits, invents a childhood for Dolores, creates a private personality for her, and then proceeds to explore what someone with that personality would do when she suddenly finds herself out of a job as First Lady.

After a discrete year of mourning out of the limelight, Dolores begins trolling for a sex partner with money. When Dolores says money, she means tens of millions.

And she wants those millions attached to someone at the highest rungs of the social ladder.

Can Dolores get what she wants?

Notably for Susann, Dolores is a slender novel, due in no small part to the novelist’s decision to leave the details of Dolores’s sexual encounters to readers’ imaginations.

What’s left isn’t great literature, but it’s a far better piece of fiction than any of her earlier novels.

Jacqueline Susann’s Dolores
William Morrow. ©1976, 201 p.
1976 bestseller #2. My grade: B

Published by

Linda G. Aragoni

I make big ideas simple for learners. In eight sentences, 34 words, I taught teens and adults to write competently. Now I'm writing guides to turn willing volunteers into great nursing home visitors.

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