In her preface to the book Joyce Carol Oates warns the reader that the novel is not a biography of Marilyn Monroe, but a fictional reconstruction of her life, and more importantly, her 'soul',in which 'synecdoche is the principle of appropriation' (meaning that she'd merge many events into one, or select only parts of Monroe's story). While this is an acceptable practice for writers of historical fiction, in the book Oates goes far beyond the principle of synedoche, and she falsifies basic biographical or historical data that would not have hurt the narration and that only required a quick check. Example: she says that Arthur Miller graduated from Rutgers University but I discovered that he graduated from Michigan University instead, without this change being in any way useful to the story. This fact makes me question all the historical information about Marilyn in the novel, and feel that I have not learned anything about this actress but rather about another character who may as well have been called something else.
Having said that, the novel itself is the compelling narration of the undoing of a soul; it is an enduring portrayal of a fragile yet charming personality trapped in a voluptuos body that people wanted to market and exploit and ultimately despise; it perfectly describes a desperate search for love and validation through male desire and the transforming eye of the camera.
The book made me fall in love with Marilyn Monroe and I think I will now read a more historically accurate- if less fascinating- biography of this American diva.