The Seventh Veil of Salome by Silvia Moreno-Garcia | Book Reviews | Speculative Fiction
Seventh Veil by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

By Charlie Fellows

The Seventh Veil of Salome by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

The Seventh Veil of Salome skilfully moves between the biblical story of Salome, who notably ordered the beheading of John the Baptist (Jokanaan) and 1950’s Hollywood, where the filming of this historical story, The Seventh Veil of Salome, is underway.

Salome, in the biblical story, is a young woman whose mother is trying to marry her off to her cousin, however Salome, who is far from a virtuous, is burning with desire for the prisoner Jokanaan. We follow her internal and physical struggles during these biblical times, when young women are punished for being outspoken and independent. Her story climaxes after she performs an intoxicating dance to the court, which leads her to ultimately deciding the fate of not only herself, but that of Jokanaan.

Interwoven with this historical tale, is another tale depicting the seedy side of Hollywood during the 1950’s. Several young girls, including Vera and Nancy, are vying to play the coveted role of Salome in what everyone is expecting to be the next big Hollywood blockbuster.

Inexperienced Mexican beauty, Vera Larios, wins the coveted role of Salome – much to the surprise of not only her mother (who constantly compares Vera unfavourably to her more ‘talented’ sister Lumi), but to the other more experienced actresses.

Vera is exotically beautiful, clever and shy but also a headstrong young woman, whose feels frustrated by her family and their old-fashioned ways. Vera dutifully follows the direction of the film’s producer, learning her craft on the job. She also plays along as she is forced ‘date’ fellow actor Clifford Collins, however Vera struggles with this façade, even though she understands that it is purely a publicity stunt to promote the film and both of their careers. When Collins actually tries to seduce Vera, she rejects him, making him furious and vowing to ruin her career.

Wild Nancy, who only got a bit part in The Seventh Veil of Salome, is an experienced player on Hollywood party circuit.  Nancy introduces Vera to her friends, including the dashing and wealthy Jay Rutland. Vera and Jay immediately click and begin an affair, much to the disgust of Nancy, who had been casually sleeping with him, amongst others.  Nancy feels scorned that Vera has now not only got the part of Salome, but also the man she was hoping would fall in love with her. After a public fight between the two women, on the set of the movie, Nancy is fired and spirals out of control. Believing that she will be recast as Salome, if only Vera was out of the picture, Nancy vows to get rid of her rival.

As well as feeling out of her depth in Hollywood, especially now that she has made enemies, Vera begins to question what she is doing, and why she is trying to make her way in the racist and chauvinistic Hollywood of the time.

As mirrored in the biblical tale of Salome, Vera struggles with the pressures of learning and performing the final dance for the movie. But just when she feels that she is making headway, after smashing the dance routine and feeling more secure in her relationship with Jay, Nancy exacts her deadly revenge.

The author has excelled at switching between the two timelines, with very different voices to portray the different worlds, yet she draws clever parallels between the characters and societies values in both.

Seventh Veil by Silvia Moreno-GarciaOverall, I feel that this book is an epic comment about the struggles of women through the ages and the injustices that they face when they don’t conform to the rules of society, or dare to stand out as different, which could arguably be applied to today as well.

© Charlie Fellows

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