The Two Mrs. Grenvilles, by Dominick Dunne, as the title indicates, tells of two women with the same last name who lead seemingly very different lives. In 1955, the main character, Ann Grenville, is found dead in her luxurious apartment. She had begun life 60 years earlier as Urse Mertens from Pittsburg, Kansas. Urse had
'always looked ahead to the time when her life would start". Eventually she leaves Kansas and ends up in New York as a chorus girl named Ann Arden. She seduces the wealthy heir, William, or Billy, Grenville, and then becomes Mrs. William Grenville to the dismay of Billy's mother, Alice, who is the other Mrs. Grenville in the book. It soon becomes apparent that sex is the only good thing about the relationship between Ann and Billy, and their marriage crumbles.
This book offers a fascinating insight into the lives of the wealthy. It reveals the extreme measures, such as covering up a murder, that are sometimes taken to keep up appearances. Just before the tragic end of her life, Ann tells a priest who had bought a house in Oyster Bay that she and Billy had owned together, "My life was a life of appearance". In this respect, the two Mrs. Grenvilles are very much alike.