I’ve always enjoyed Rose McGowan for the fiery individual she appeared to be on screen. Even though she states in her memoir, “for those who knew me as an actress, I must inform you I was never that person”, she’s still a damn queen, I know it. Her fire comes across from the very first page. Her words are fierce, they demand attention, and damn right. For a survivor of abuse to come forward and tell her story, I would expect nothing less.
“I was told I had to have long hair, otherwise the men doing the hiring in Hollywood wouldn’t want to fuck me, and if they didn’t want to fuck me, they wouldn’t hire me. I was told this by my female agent, which is tragic on so many levels.”
Brave is less of a memoir, more of a social commentary with McGowan’s own experiences as the starting point. It’s a story about women and the abuse of women; it’s a painful and, yes, fairly triggering account, but it’s the kind of book I can see being very helpful to a lot of people.
Rose McGowan’s story is one best read by those who want to hear what she has to say. This is not a ‘lifestyles of the rich and famous’ celeb autobiography; it doesn’t dish a whole lot of dirt and goss on the Hollywood scene, only what needs to be said. (Predominantly about McGowan’s most prolific abuser, Harvey Weinstein.) Nor does it go into slow and detailed account of McGowan’s childhood, usually one of my favourite parts of an autobiography. McGowan just tells you her story the way she wants to tell it. It’s informal, her writing is more stream-of-conscious, so much so that it feels rushed at times. Details that piqued my interest were often brushed over, as if her whole life had been put to summary. To me, it felt rather unfinished, and it left me wondering if there had perhaps been a rush to publish while the Weinstein scandal and its aftermath is still fresh in everyone’s mind. And if that was the marketing strategy there, then fair enough. This is not a work of fiction and we’re not here to judge McGowan’s literary prowess, she doesn’t need to polish her manuscript to the high sheen expected of fiction works. This is her story, and I can certainly say it gave me feelings.
I would have loved more though, that has to be said. I am definitely one to savour a true life-story. I love feeling connected to a real person, reading about their struggles and rejoicing in their successes. I love a real-life story of dramatic events, and Brave had plenty of those. But it felt like it was on speed, which sadly prevented me from connecting to Rose McGowan fully. I also felt a disconnect when it came to McGowan’s childhood memories. Mostly they seemed to be written from an entirely adult perspective, the magic of forty years’ hindsight chucked in with a child’s encounter. There’s hardly anything wrong with hindsight, but McGowan often wrote her insights in line with what was going through her head when she was a child, and that just rally brought me away from the character. No four-year-old has the mind and wisdom of an adult, but McGowan wrote it that way a lot. It just felt like kiddy Rose McGowan was a genius, an adult in a child’s body, instantly seeing through everyone’s bullshit. I know ‘believability’ is a review-term we use a lot for sci-fi and fantasy, but that word popped up a lot for me when I was reading Brave.
“I remember thinking as a young girl, How is it possible that women can be so gullible? They just ignore the reality of what is happening and believe what they want to believe.”
Honestly it didn’t really help the ‘believability’ issue when everything in Brave is so rushed. With the focus jumping, briefly, to the varied horrible people in McGowan’s life, there was no time to mention the good stuff. There didn’t appear to be anyone even remotely decent in Rose’s entire life-story, no one that got any part of the word count anyway. And that just gave the impression that McGowan was the only good person in a storm of nasties, one little genius adult-in-the-body-of-a-child, fighting the monsters all in her own.
“Sometimes she would walk down the hall and I would see him stand up and start following her. I would block his path and get in his face. Well, I would get in his stomach, because I was ten. One particular time I spit at him and it landed perfectly on his lips. He gave me a beating and I took it. I was damned if I was going to let him do anything to Daisy.”
At the end of the day, I’m not here to judge the truthfulness of this memoir. Definitely not going to throw the word ‘lies’ into a review of an abuse survivor’s story. But as a writer and a reader I know a lot about believability and I know it’s value in connecting a reader to a story. And that is why I wanted to bring it up: to me, this is not ‘my kind’ of autobiography. It’s not one I would recommend if you like to get lost in a true story as I do, learning about and connecting with a person of note, someone you may hold in high esteem. This is not that kind of story.
But it is one to read for the feminists, budding or veteran. It is one to read if you want to hear a survivor’s story, or if you’re invested in the current Hollywood scandal. It’s also a great book to read if you’re trying to break into Hollywood; I have never seen such a clear warning sign.
Most of all, it’s a motivational story. Rose McGowan is a powerful and fiery woman, a phoenix calling – no, screaming – for a better world for her gender. She is raw, and she is a dragon, and she can definitely be called brave.
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