book review



Patricia Bosworth has gone beyond the image of an American superwoman to reveal a Jane Fonda more powerful and vulnerable than ever expected. Fonda emerged from a heartbreaking Hollywood family drama to become a ’60s onscreen ingénue and then an Oscar-winning actress. At the top of her game she risked all, rising up against the Vietnam War and shocking the world with a trip to Hanoi. While becoming one of Hollywood’s most committed feminists, she financed her husband Tom Hayden’s political career in the ’80s with exercise videos that began a fitness craze and brought in millions of dollars. Just as interesting is Fonda’s next turn, as a Stepford Wife of the Gulfstream set, marrying Ted Turner and seemingly walking away from her ideals and her career. Fonda’s multilevel story is a blend of the deep insecurity, magnetism, bravery, and determination that has fueled her inspiring and occasionally infuriating public life.

My Thoughts: In many ways, I have followed the numerous incarnations of Jane that have been described in Jane Fonda: The Private Life of a Public Woman. Her early childhood experiences, including the tragedy of her mother’s suicide when she was twelve, and also highlighting her quest for her father’s love and approval, could describe many children growing up in a world with celebrity parents. The vulnerability, accompanied by constant attention, could come to chip away at the self-confidence of anyone. The early chapters in this book were the least fascinating to me, but I did enjoy learning more about her childhood.

My interest grew as I learned more about how Jane’s early years as an actress helped her develop greater self-confidence, but which did not completely satisfy her need for love and approval.

The incarnation that captured my interest the most was how she turned to political activism as a way of coming into her own, and also became a way of expressing her unique and independent perspective. But despite those who found her articulate and knowledgeable, there were also those who focused on the media’s hatred of her visit to Hanoi during the war. The label of Hanoi Jane would follow her and threaten her for years.

Then in still another incarnation, her turn at developing her own business through the work-out tapes and the resulting empire would be followed by still another life as a tycoon’s wife.

Unexpected shifts over the years would reveal how much of Jane’s life could almost certainly be seen as a series of changes and reinvention. Fascinating and revelatory. I enjoyed this book and have awarded it 4.5 stars.



    1. Thanks, Mary, and I agree….all the controversy made her interesting, and watching how she reinvented herself over and over was a testament to her strength, in spite of her past emotional turmoil.

      According to the back of the book, the cover photo was taken in 1978…when she would have been 41. She has always looked very youthful. The funny thing throughout the book, she never liked the way her face looked. She thought her cheeks were like a chipmunk’s…LOL


  1. I was one of those millions of women who leapt around my lounge to Jane Fonda’s exercise videos, after watching many of the films she was in during her actress years. This books sounds fascinating – thank you for a great review:).

    Liked by 1 person

  2. She’s had an interesting career. One of my favorite movies of hers is The China Syndrome … and perhaps Coming Home too. Both were around the same time. Does the book talk of those movies?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for visiting, Susan, and I agree about her career being very interesting. And her life seems like a series of different incarnations.

      The book does talk about her movies…and I had even forgotten some of them. I had to pull out my DVDs and get some others through Amazon Prime and Netflix. I just watched Barefoot in the Park on Netflix, which I haven’t seen in years.

      I loved Coming Home, and I haven’t seen The China Syndrome in ages either.


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