Goldsmith, Olivia 1954(?)–2004
Goldsmith, Olivia 1954(?)–2004
(Randy Goldfield, Justine Rendal)
PERSONAL: Born c. 1954, in Dumont, NJ; died of complications related to anesthesia, January 15, 2004, in New York, NY; daughter of Martin and Estelle (a teacher) Goldfield; name legally changed to Justine Rendal; married a marketing executive, 1979 (divorced).
CAREER: Booz Allen Hamilton, management consultant; novelist, 1992–2004.
The First Wives Club, Poseidon Press (New York, NY), 1992.
Flavor of the Month, Poseidon Press (New York, NY), 1993.
Fashionably Late, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1994.
Simple Isn't Easy, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1995.
The Bestseller, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1996.
Marrying Mom, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1996.
Switcheroo, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1998.
Young Wives, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2000.
Bad Boy, Dutton (New York, NY), 2001.
Pen Pals, Dutton (New York, NY), 2002.
Dumping Billy, Warner Books (New York, NY), 2004.
Contributor to periodicals, including Cosmopolitan, In Style, New York Times, and the Observer.
ADAPTATIONS: The First Wives Club was made into a motion picture in 1996. Books adapted for audio include Young Wives (unabridged; fifteen cassettes), Recorded Books, 2000; Pen Pals (unabridged; nine cassettes), read by Joyce Bean, Brilliance Audio, 2002; and Dumping Billy (unabridged; eight cassettes), read by Bernadette Quigley, Brilliance Audio, 2004.
SIDELIGHTS: Author Olivia Goldsmith was born Randy Goldfield and worked as a management consultant for eleven years before she decided to try her hand at writing novels. Recovering from a painful divorce, she changed her name from Goldfield to Justine Rendal, moved to London, adopted her pseudonym, and began her first book, The First Wives Club. It enjoyed enormous success and was later made into a popular film, but it was rejected by twenty-seven publishers before it was published by Poseidon Press in 1992.
The First Wives Club features three friends who have one thing in common—they have all been divorced by successful husbands who have gone on to marry younger "trophy" wives. They are galvanized into seeking revenge when another of their friends, treated in a similar fashion, commits suicide. The story is set in the late 1980s, and "in true late-80s style," in the words of Susan Lee in the New York Times Book Review, "victory comes through the offices of the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Internal Revenue Service." When the men fall on hard times, their younger wives leave them. The heroines, however, have all gone on to new, healthy love relationships. Joyce R. Slater in the Chicago Tribune hailed The First Wives Club as "the most fun I've had with a first novel" since Susan Isaacs' Compromising Positions, while Lee concluded it to be a "deeply satisfying tale." In the film version of the story—which features Goldie Hawn, Bette Midler, and Diane Keaton—Goldsmith made a cameo appearance as a mourner at the suicide victim's funeral.
Goldsmith's next novel, Flavor of the Month, tells the story of Mary Jane Moran—an actress who totally recreates her appearance through extensive plastic surgery. She then changes her name and winds up as one of the stars of a new hit television show. However, another major figure in Flavor of the Month, Laura Richie, is out to pen an exposé on the stars of that series; and, as Slater pointed out in Chicago Tribune Books, "Laura is determined to dig up the past, even if she ruins lives and careers in the process." Susan Dooley, commenting in Washington Post Book World, complained of "triteness" and recommended: "Read this one at home where you can wonder at a plot in which the most admirable characters are a brother and sister engaged in incest."
In Fashionably Late, Goldsmith portrays successful fashion designer Karen Kahn—a character Slater described in a Chicago Tribune review as similar to real-life fashion designer "Donna Karan with killer PMS." Kahn, in her forties, is an adopted child in search of her biological mother, in a troubled marriage, and wondering whether she herself should adopt a child. Slater found Fashionably Late "relentlessly chic," but a Publishers Weekly critic praised Goldsmith's "outstandingly creative characters" and concluded that the novel "fairly hums with excitement."
In The Bestseller, Goldsmith chronicles the adventures of four different women novelists all dealing with the same fictional publishing firm of Davis & Dash. One is an elderly romance writer whose popularity is in decline; another is a mother marketing the work her daughter did not live to see in print; yet another hails from England, hawking a work about American tourists in Italy; the last has penned a crime novel but must beware of her competitive mate. A Publishers Weekly reviewer called the book "highly entertaining" and declared that its plot "makes publishing seem as glamorous and crazy as fashion or the movies."
Switcheroo is the story of two women who each yearn for what the other has. Sylvie is married and has a wonderful life and husband. Their children are at college, and she decides to rekindle the fire in their marriage but discovers that he is having an affair with the younger Marla, who resembles Sylvie minus about ten years. Sylvie, who is looking for romance, and Marla, who is looking for stability, decide to swap identities in order to experience what is missing in their lives. After makeovers—Marla's to make her heavier and older-looking—they manage to fool Bob, but Marla's job is hardest, demonstrated when her Thanksgiving dinner turns out to be a disaster. Library Journal reviewer Margaret Hanes wrote that the story "is full of warm and witty secondary characters."
The three wives in Young Wives are married to a cheater, a slacker, and a drug dealer. In this story, Goldsmith skewers men, the justice system, and the legal profession. She followed with Bad Boy, in which Seattle reporter Tracie Higgins transforms the only nice guy in her life into a "bad boy," so that he can meet women. Jonathan Delano is the guy, a nerdish techie who lets Tracie make him over with a new haircut, clothes, and pickup lines that he has trouble remembering. Underneath it all, he is nothing like the men Tracie falls for, genuine bad boys who drop her and leave her footing the bill. "Realistic yet entertaining characters and witty dialogue are Goldsmith's top priority," wrote Michelle Kaske in Booklist.
Like The First Wives Club, Pen Pals is set in an upscale world. Jennifer Spencer works on Wall Street and is engaged to a rising-star lawyer who fails to be there for her when she needs him. When Jennifer takes a fall for her boss in a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation, she is sent to a prison that houses serious offenders. The warden puts her with Movita, the toughest of the inmates, and another woman who has suffered at the hands of men. Jennifer becomes an activist for prison reform and helps secure pardons for several of the inmates.
Goldsmith's final novel was Dumping Billy. Handsome Billy Nolan, who owns a bar, is called "Dumping Billy" because whenever he dumps a woman, she is married by the next man she dates. Kate Jameson, now a school psychologist in Manhattan, visits her old Brooklyn gang and meets Billy, and a mutual attraction is established. But her protective friends Elliot and Brice suggest that they instead fix Billy up with their friend Bina, who herself has been dumped. Kate suppresses her own desire and does, but Bina is not as taken with Billy as she is with someone else who enters her life. Booklist critic Mary Frances Wilkens noted that this novel contains elements typical of Goldsmith's novels, that feature "wacky heroines exacting revenge on the male species. Fun, silly, and sure to please her fans."
Shortly after the release of this book, Goldsmith suffered a tragic death from complications as the was being prepared for cosmetic surgery. She never regained consciousness after being anesthetized. According to Michele Green in a Peple tribute, at the time she was promoting Dumping Billy, which had been optioned for film, and decorating the SoHo loft she had bought from actress Sandra Bullock. At her death, she was fifty-four.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, March 1, 1998, Mary Frances Wilkens, review of Switcheroo, p. 1044; November 1, 2000, Michelle Kaske, review of Bad Boy, p. 492; December 1, 2001, Mary Frances Wilkens, review of Pen Pals, p. 606; April 1, 2004, Mary Frances Wilkens, review of Dumping Billy, p. 1331.
Chicago Tribune, March 22, 1992, Joyce R. Slater, review of The First Wives Club, sec. 14, p. 6; August 28, 1994, Joyce R. Slater, review of Fashionably Late, sec. 14, p. 7.
Chicago Tribune Books, May 23, 1993, Joyce R. Slater, review of Flavor of the Month, p. 6.
Kirkus Reviews, March 15, 2004, review of Dumping Billy, p. 241.
Library Journal, April 1, 1998, Margaret Hanes, review of Switcheroo, p. 121; November 15, 2000, Margaret Hanes, review of Bad Boy, p. 96; January, 2002, Margaret Hanes, review of Pen Pals, p. 152; April 15, 2004, Margaret Hanes, review of Dumping Billy, p. 123.
New York Times Book Review, May 10, 1992, Susan Lee, review of The First Wives Club, p. 17.
Publishers Weekly, June 27, 1994, review of Fashionably Late, p. 56; June 3, 1996, review of The Bestseller, p. 59; March 2, 1998, review of Switcheroo, p. 56; January 24, 2000, review of Young Wives, p. 293; October 30, 2000, review of Bad Boy, p. 43; January 7, 2002, review of Pen Pals, p. 46; March 29, 2004, review of Dumping Billy, p. 36.
Washington Post Book World, June 6, 1993, Susan Dooley, review of Flavor of the Month, p. 10.
Bookreporter.com, http://www.bookreporter.com/ (January 7, 2006), Jana Siciliano, review of Bad Boy.
Daily Variety, March 8, 2004, p. 16.
New York Times, January 16, 2004.
People, February 2, 2004, Michelle Greene, p. 65.