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American Eve

3.71  ·  Rating details ·  2,285 Ratings  ·  295 Reviews
The scandalous story of America's first supermodel, sex goddess, and modern celebrity--Evelyn Nesbit.
By the time of her sixteenth birthday in 1900, Evelyn Nesbit was known to millions as the most photographed woman of her era, an iconic figure who set the standard for female beauty, and whose innocent sexuality was used to sell everything from chocolates to perfume. Women
ebook, 400 pages
Published May 1st 2008 by Riverhead Books (first published 2008)
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May 18, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: feckless deflowerers; america's next top model
So after a sleepless night of guilty twisting in my sheets (really) plagued by nightmares about having been so horrid and rude to someone on the Internet, today I sat down and finally finished this book.

Oh, American Eve. I was so primed and eager to fall in love with you! Over the years my father had mentioned Evelyn Nesbit's bizarre love triangle on afternoon walks from Penn Station or in front of the Farragut memorial in Madison Square Park.... (In case anyone reading this isn't familiar with
Dec 28, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: true-crime
Some years ago, long before I started receiving student loan bills, I took a college course called "The History of American Architecture." Having been assured that this was a humanities course, and that no engineering or mathematics would be involved, I settled in to learn about gables, cornices, and dentils.

My professor was intensely passionate about the subject. He took us on a walking tour of Omaha, Nebraska, in a vain attempt to convince us that Omaha had interesting architecture. Once, he
Aug 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
I have read about many great people who had many great gifts including courage, vision, and persistence among others. Evelyn Nesbit had however, what I consider, a rare quality. The quality is: being seen almost universally as beautiful. This is an attribute that I believe most people would love to have. But being so beautiful is not always a blessing as Evelyn Nesbit would discover.

Evelyn had a normal early child hood in the suburbs of Pittsburgh. She evidently had a wonderful father who was m
May 17, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The first thrid reads like a romance novel, if the author cut out half the redundant sentences she would loose about 30 pgs from the whole book. Also it was like the author wrote this book while constantly using her thesaurus. I was reminded of an English professor who used two many adjectives to explain one point, so the style starts to wear down the reader to almost boredom. The book really picks up after the first 130 pages then the story takes off. The ending is really packed with facts as i ...more
Paula Uruburu
Mar 05, 2008 added it  ·  (Review from the author)  ·  review of another edition
It is reviewed in the April 2008 Vogue, May O!, May 11th LA Times. It's in the June 1st New York Times Summer Reads Book Review. You can hear my podcast with the Washington Post BookTalk on their website.
May 18, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who like true crime
Shelves: nonfiction
I have been enthralled with the Evelyn Nesbit story for years and was very excited to read this biography to learn what was really what, and who was really who.

Paula Uruburu is certainly the expert on Evelyn Nesbit, her terrible story and why it's been fascinating to so many of the morbidly curious. I have to say that her writing style vacillates between bombastic and cloying - a little too much and a little too little.

I also had a hard time with the fact that Uruburu completely overlooked some
Sep 29, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It has some pretty "poppy" writing. For example, I am not fond of how Ms. Uruburu's sentences end. But then there's just one more thing.

Sex. A one-word sentence like that is too melodramatic a device to employ in a serious history book.

And extended metaphors equating 1900 to the Garden of Eden are very pretty, but here I feel Ms. Uruburu succumbed to some fork-tongued serpent's sophistry in introducing this forbidden fruit to the verdant prelapsarian prose that might otherwise have characterized
Jul 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
American Eve by Paula Uruburu is the quintessential documentation of the first "crime of the century" which occurred in 1906. This painstakingly researched book on the murder of the famous gilded age architect, Stanford White, by Harry K. Thaw, the playboy son of a multi-millionaire pious Pittsburgh family. The murder centers on the honor and affections of Evelyn Nesbit to whom Harry was married at the time of the murder. Evelyn, as a young girl, found herself in the position of possessing an ex ...more
Apr 25, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Young Evelyn Nesbit was raised in poverty and brought to New York City by a really horrible mother who left her to become a millionaire's mistress and later another's wife. The decadence of the era where the young model and showgirl became the face of womanhood for her generation led to a tragedy and media circus.

This was an interesting book in many ways. It is a period of American history I know little about for one. Though I have heard of Stanford White and his architectural accomplishments,
Rachel McMillan
Jun 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
one of the most interesting pieces of non-fiction i have ever read
ⓐⓥⓡⓔⓔ ☞ The Bookish Blonde


Exploited by those closest to her and by enamored strangers alike.

She had the misfortune of being tempted with fortune…

It was so sad to witness the story telling of the conniving and manipulations that went on behind the scenes when Evelyn was just a trusting girl who was tempted by rich foods, toys, and books which then progressed to jewels, furs, and clothing once she was prematurely “made a woman” at the hands of one
May 03, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Rick
In turn of the century New York, Pennsylvania-born Florence Evelyn Nesbit was a famous teen beauty. Her waterfall of dark red hair, heart-shaped face, and expression of unawakened sexuality put her in hot demand as a model, therefore her image graced calendars, sheet music covers, and printed ads. Canadian author Lucy Maud Montgomery used one of Nesbit's photos as inspiration for the heroine of her bestseller "Anne of Green Gables". She shone in the Floradora chorus and her stage-door admirers i ...more
Jul 04, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
AN INCREDIBLE STORY. But NOT a quick and easy read.

“Less than an hour after the crime, rogue reporters alerted to the murder and hungry for immediate gratification grew to a fearsome pack. They began prowling throughout the city, ‘scavenging for the puniest morsel of information’, ‘purveyors of salacious and demoralizing minutiae of vice’.” --pg. 289

A hundred and two years later and they still prowl. It’s a fascinating story, set in an equally fascinating time and place.

Paula Uruburu’s, Americ
I was fascinated by Evelyn Nesbit's story after seeing a television documentary about the Thaw/White trial a few years ago (American Experience: Murder of the Century). What a joy it is to now have this sad, dramatic life explored in depth. The overall tone is very sympathetic to Evelyn, while maintaining a critical eye on the facts, whether they play in her favor or not. The narrative flows in an easy, conversational manner, often reading more like a novel than nonfiction, but this only serves ...more
Aug 23, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
Interesting - but incredibly sad - story, I didn't realize this was the famous "Gibson Girl".

A turn-of-the-century story of loss, survival, depravity, insanity and ultimately tragedy. This girl never had much of a chance at being happy. Everyone in her life used her, and then tossed her aside.

Laurie Notaro
Sep 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
i love a five-star book. I LIVE for five-star books. Salacious, sensational, pathetic and shocking. And sympathetic. True story of a woman pulled between two horrible men it the turn of the 20th century, and without much choice in the matter.
Lolly's Library
May 24, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american-history
3.5 stars


Evelyn Nesbit. Look at her. No wonder men desired her and women wanted to be her. She was not only the first "It" girl, she was the template for the modern woman. Take away the trappings and her face could grace the covers of today's tabloids and magazines.

Breezy, gossipy, intimate, and casual, American Eve tells the tragic and riveting tale of America's first pin-up girl, Evelyn Nesbit – artist's model, showgirl, Gibson Girl – her involvement with Stanford White, literally the architec
Edgar Allan
May 06, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Paula Uruburu’s AMERICAN EVE: EVELYN NESBIT, STANFORD WHITE, THE BIRTH OF THE “IT” GIRL AND THE CRIME OF THE CENTURY is a first-rate, spirited and entertaining chronicle involving sex, celebrity, murder, media frenzy and a dead hippo.

Uruburu’s exhilarating tale begins in NYC during the final hours of 1899—an “Eden” where Nesbit, the titular Eve and “Little Sphinx,” rises from poverty and obscurity to become the preeminent model and pin-up girl of the day. Part Ophelia, part Salome, the inscrutab
Evelyn Nesbit once said that plain girls are happiest, and in her case she was most definitely speaking from experience. Her beauty was her downfall; it was what drew her into a career where she was constantly in the eye of men older, richer and more powerful than her; it was what attracted Stanford White, the famous architect, who initially cast himself in the role of paternal protector before raping Evelyn and keeping her as his mistress, all before she even turned seventeen; and it was what i ...more
Feb 10, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A biography of Evelyn Nesbit, the beauty who became the symbol of the Gilded Age. Often 'beauties of the age' don't stand the test of time, but Evelyn is just as beautiful now as she was considered to be back in 1901. At 16, Evelyn became one of the first 'super models'. At 21, Evelyn became the center of the 'crime of the century' when her husband Harry Thayer murdered the famous architect Stanford White, who had been her lover at the tender age of 16.

White later would be vilified as a man who
Nov 04, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography, true-crime
The heartbreaking story of Evelyn Nesbit at the turn of the century. At a time when American opinions were changing as to wealth, class, sex and women's rights, Evelyn found herself torn, left to defend herself from two unscrupulous men and the unforgiving public. Uruburu wrote a fascinating but touching account of Evelyn's life, focusing on the events leading up to the murder of Stanford White.

I am impressed by the research Uruburu put into this story as well as how sensitively she handled it.
The title of this book--American Eve: Evelyn Nesbit, Stanford White, The Birth of the It Girl and the Crime of the Century--is as misleading as it is long. I expected it to focus on Nesbit, White, and the "crime of the century" (Harry Thaw's murder of White). Instead, Urbuburu's book is simply a biography of Nesbit up to the end of Thaw's 1st trial. Every event is shown purely from Nesbit's perspective. Every character is described only in so far as they interacted with Nesbit. For instance, the ...more
L Greyfort
May 14, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who enjoy true crime, social & popular history, "American Experience" on PBS
Shelves: biography, history

Just finished this - what an absorbing book! Feel Like I have to reacclimate to the 21st century!

While I knew the bare outlines of the story, the extent of the detail here is extraordinary. Ten years of research, thought, writing & editing have really paid off.

What makes this rendering of the history so arresting is how Paula has gotten inside the heads and hearts of all the protagonists. You must decide for yourself how much blame is be assigned to each of them, and who the good and bad gu
Sep 08, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I meant to wait and write about this after book club ages ago and forgot, so here goes. This was somewhere between a 3.5 and a 4 for me. I liked the overall historical story being told; Ububuru's writing style can take some getting used to, though I didn't find it all that annoying. A fascinating, terrible, sad story about a very early celebrity.
Uruburu's referencing/framing of Nesbitt's teenage relationship with much older (and at times very abusive) influential men as a "love affair" is...prob
Jeanie Ng
Apr 04, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a wonderful story of a young girl's survival during the Gilded Age. I learned that even girls have to work hard in order to succeed, regardless of the time period they live in. And sometimes, there are forces beyond their control that oppress their very existence.
Sep 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great read, fascinating! Right up to the very end, even the acknowledgements were interesting.
Jan 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Late one night, during a marathon black-hole Wikipedia session, I stumbled across Harry Kendall Thaw, which of course led me to Evelyn Nesbit, White, the whole gang. I wanted to learn everything I could about these people, which led me to this incredible book by Paula Uruburu.

What a masterpiece. I devoured this book, stayed up til 2am reading it (can’t remember the last time a book made me do that), and even after I had finished it, the story stuck with me. Uruburu’s writing is beautiful, her s
American Eve: Evelyn Nesbit, Stanford White The Birth of the 'It' Girl, and the 'Crime of the Century' by Paula Uruburu (2008) tells the story of [Florence] Evelyn Nesbit who was a beautiful, popluar chorus girl, artist's model, and budding actress at turn of the century (19th to 20th) whose long-term liaison with renowned architect Stanford White led to her identification as "The Girl on the Red Velvet Swing" as well as her involvement in one of the early 20th Century's most notorious murder tr ...more
Sep 15, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Whatsherface married whatshisface, and they get their own television speical this fall. Neither one seems to have done anything to earn the fame or the reality show. But hey, at least whatsherface is better looking than Paris Hilton.

Society obessess about celebrities, even when they have done nothing to earn thier celebrity. Even those of us who look down on the gossip magazines have our weakness (Who cares about the earthquake as long as Will and Jada are fine!). We like putting them on an impo
Mar 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
AMAZING. Shocking! This was just a jaw-droppingly fabulous read. I read Ragtime a while ago, and remembered Evelyn Nesbit as being a minor character and thought, huh maybe I should pick this up. Plus I love the Progressive Era, this should be fun. Wow.

There were so many interesting themes about gender, media frenzy, virginity, youth and beauty, domination and manipulation, and comically evil in-laws. Let me just say that the gender politics in this country go so far back and it is just so fucked
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Join my Facebook group for American Eve at

Nice news to share—The New York Times Book Review will be featuring AMERICAN EVE in Paperback Row in the May 10th issue.

My book, AMERICAN EVE (Riverhead Penguin) is a biography of the first "It" girl Evelyn Nesbit and her role in the crime of the century. An English Prof. at Hofstra University, I love the Gilded Age,
More about Paula Uruburu...

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