Those that know me well will know that I have had a fascination with the life and mysterious death of Marilyn Monroe for as long as I can remember. I have read countless biographies and two rather large pictures of the Blonde Bombshell adorn my living room walls. So when I saw the title of Alexander Rigby’s latest novel, I wanted to read it. I’ll admit that futuristic novels don’t normally appeal to me but the Marilyn link sold it to me. What would Marilyn Monroe be like in 2062? How would she react to all the technology that has been introduced since 1962 and what would she make of all the controversy surrounding her death? Of course, we could never really know the answer to these questions, but I loved the idea of someone writing a piece of fiction considering them.
Jeremiah Gold, a scientific genius in 2062, builds a time machine in the form of a flying car (a floca) with the intention of taking his mum, Avery, to the future to a time when she would be able to find a cure for her brain tumour. When Avery dies before he finishes the time machine, he interprets her curious final words to mean that he should return to 1962 and rescue Marilyn Monroe from her impending death and bring her to 2062. So he does.
When Jeremiah goes back to 1962, he uses the many biographies he has in his possession to work out where he can “bump into” Marilyn in the days leading up to August 4th 1962 to gain her trust. I was a little disappointed that this section of the book was very dealt with quite quickly and I often felt like I was reading a vague reporting of the facts with a few choice meetings between Marilyn and Jeremiah stuck in between but I think that if I hadn’t read so much about Marilyn Monroe, I may not have noticed this. In the overall scheme of the novel, this section of the book merely facilitates Marilyn’s journey to 2062 so there is no requirement to go into any more detail than Rigby does, but I think it may have been interesting to explore the Kennedy’s role a bit and to give an insight to what actually happened to Marilyn that night, even in a fictional sense. Indulgence on my part, perhaps…
Once Jeremiah transports Marilyn to 2062, she doesn’t seem as shocked as I might have been if I’d found myself 100 years in the future and she seems to adapt pretty easily on the whole, which seems a bit strange. I’ll admit, by this point, I was thinking that perhaps I had expected too much from this novel and was wondering if I was going to enjoy the book as a whole. However, I stuck with it and I’m extremely glad I did!
Over the following chapters, Rigby develops the various relationships between the characters and Marilyn isn’t always the centre of attention, allowing the other characters to blossom; relationships develop and the pasts of the various characters are scrutinised, with a few revelations along the way. Marilyn is effectively left with a decision to make on how she wants to live her life going forward, and who with.
The last third of the novel is where all the things that perhaps I felt weren’t quite right earlier in the book fell into place. Just when you expect that the narrative will take you in one direction, Rigby throws in a few curveballs to make Marilyn’s journey in particular brilliantly concluded. All the little nuances from the rest of the novel are intricately woven together and it all makes absolute sense. Anything that may have seemed minor previously is tied up at the end and is very cleverly pieced together.
What Happened to Marilyn is a beautifully written, clever narrative and whilst I had my reservations at first, by the time I reached the end I thought it was a fitting fictional tribute to the legend that was Marilyn Monroe. Rigby allows her (albeit in a fictional sense) to choose her own destiny. As someone who has read endless books on Marilyn Monroe’s life and death and has developed my own theories of what really happened that night on 4th August 1962, it’s nice that at least in fiction, Marilyn Monroe has regained some control. Rigby doesn’t allow his novel to get bogged down in facts and conspiracy theories; instead it’s just a lovely story about a Hollywood legend who finds herself 100 years in the future and I would highly recommend that you give it a read.