Lucille Ball, Hollywood’s first true media mogul, stars in this “bold” (The Boston Globe), “boisterous novel” (The New Yorker) with a thrilling love story at its heart—from the award-winning, bestselling author of Chang & Eng and Half a Life
A WASHINGTON POST BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR • “A gorgeous, Technicolor take on America in the middle of the twentieth century.”—Colson Whitehead, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Nickel Boys
This indelible romance begins with a daring conceit—that the author’s grandfather may have had an affair with Lucille Ball. Strauss offers a fresh view of a celebrity America loved more than any other.
Lucille Ball—the most powerful woman in the history of Hollywood—was part of America’s first high-profile interracial marriage. She owned more movie sets than did any movie studio. She more or less single-handedly created the modern TV business. And yet Lucille’s off-camera life was in disarray. While acting out a happy marriage for millions, she suffered in private. Her partner couldn’t stay faithful. She struggled to balance her fame with the demands of being a mother, a creative genius, an entrepreneur, and, most of all, a symbol.
The Queen of Tuesday—Strauss’s follow-up to Half a Life, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award—mixes fact and fiction, memoir and novel, to imagine the provocative story of a woman we thought we knew.
Strauss's ambitious metafictional latest (after the NBCC Award-winning memoir Half a Life) blends autobiography and family history in an investigation of celebrity, memory, and the legacy of ambition. The queen of the title is Lucille Ball, who, in 1949, is a shrewd businesswoman whose funny faces subvert her beauty and add to her character, and whose domestic life is simulated in I Love Lucy, but the book's beating heart is Isidore Strauss, a Jewish builder, and, as the reader will eventually realize, the author's grandfather. Isidore meets Ball at a Coney Island event hosted by Fred Trump, and Strauss uses this detail to spin a story of a secret affair that explains why Isidore's marriage falls apart. The book is so clearly a labor of love that would be almost churlish to point out how labored it can feel, as when the narrator muses for two pages about Desi Arnaz's use and abuse of power, or when Isidore wallows in guilt for just one kiss. Strauss is at his best when harnessing Lucy's vital comedic and sexual force, but it's not sustained across the entire narrative. Still, the questions of how family legends both obscure and reveal the truth will keep readers turning the pages.