"More so tan with any other contemporary figure, the telling of Greta Garbo's life story is largely dependent on what she would have considered the indiscretion of her friends and coworkers," author Karen Swenson says in her introduction to Greta Garbo: A Life Apart. In a lot of ways, a biography of someone who was so protective of her private life and even evasive when a rare interview was granted, is difficult to construct. But, as Swenson noted, those who were close to her have seemed, over the years, very willing to share their thoughts, ideas and experiences about - people such as photographer Cecil Beaton who apparently kept a detailed diary and, to Garbo's chagrin, had no qualms about sharing the accounts of his friendship with Garbo - or Mercedes de Acosta who may have been Garbo's lover at one time. Of course, Swenson uses letters written by Garbo herself to family and friends, and notes in her introduction that although her book is not sanctioned by the Garbo estate, she did get editorial assistance from Garbo's closest surviving relative - her niece and family. Swenson's account is detailed, well-researched and leaves the reader satisfied at the end that virtually all that is possible to reveal of the reclusive star's life has been transcribed. Swenson deserves credit, too, for being very matter-of-fact in her presentation rather than waxing philosophical, or even psychological, as some writers do. Well organized in a logical chronological fashion, the book is an intriguing read keeps the reader interested and entertained for the entire 600+ pages. Personages no less than Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. have praised the biography. Fairbanks suggested that no one else has succeeded so well in capturing Garbo's "elusive personality." Award-winning screenwriter and TV playwright Gavin Lambert simply called it "the best biography of Garbo." Anyone wanting to get beyond all of the ceaseless verbage about "the Garbo mystique" should start with this book and get the facts about one of the most (if not the most) famous names from the last century - and one that has not faded with the passing of time.
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