November 21st, 2015

Book Review: Down the Rabbit Hole

Book Review: Down the Rabbit Hole by Holly Madison | Sara du Jour

Down the Rabbit Hole: Curious Adventures and Cautionary Tales of a Former Playboy Bunny, is not so much Holly Madison’s memoir as it is her PR stunt.

I decided to give this (audio)book a try after virtually *every* vlogger I follow had read and liked it. I never religiously watched The Girls Next Door (a reality show Holly Madison starred in during the early 2000s, as one of three of Hugh Hefner’s girlfriends at the time), but I did watch it for about a year in university. I would be up very late each night working on projects for school, and I liked to have something on tv in the background for company while I worked. At that time, reruns of this show were on every night around 2 or 3 am. I found it mindlessly entertaining, and Holly, Bridget, and Kendra likeable personalities. 

This book is marketed as though it will reveal shocking, juicy secrets of what really went on behind the sealed gates of the fabled Playboy Mansion. To me, nothing was really all that shocking, as I never once thought living at the Playboy Mansion would be idyllic, nor did I think a man like Hugh Hefner would be a kind and respectful boyfriend. Spoiler: he’s not. Are we shocked, though? The man built an empire on objectifying women with one very particular look – can we truly feign disbelief that he turns out to be shallow and misogynistic? He had three “girlfriends” at once, for heaven’s sake, and at another point, seven.

I enjoyed this book well enough, and I think if you find the world of Playboy alluring or fascinating, or you just want to learn the extent of Hugh Hefner’s manipulative personality, you will too. Down the Rabbit Hole would also appeal to those who were a fan of the show, and want to know more about what went on behind the scenes. But take it all with a grain of salt.

For all of Holly’s criticisms of how carefully Hugh Hefner worked to maintain his image, she herself is not that different. All of the events described are spun to make herself come out on top: the kind, innocent character who bad things just happen to, time and again. I’m not saying she wasn’t taken advantage of by a manipulative, predatory man. I’m not for one second saying she didn’t suffer. But there is a great deal of spin in this book, and that kind of subtle dishonesty irks me after a while.

You know those women who claim to be so nice to other women, but say that women are inexplicably always mean to them? She’s that. She claims she was kind to all the other girlfriends in the house, but one sentence later refers to them all as “bitches”. Right, Holly. One moment she’s saying how she, Bridget and Kendra were all such good friends, and the next moment she is not-so-subtly calling Kendra fake and dumb. Just…sigh.

I understand that after years of emotional abuse, Holly Madison wanted to have the final word, get some kind of revenge on Hugh Hefner, and tell her story. I just wish she focused her memoir more on her relationship with “Hef”, rather than continuously criticizing the other women and throwing them under the bus. Surely they all suffered similarly, even if not all of them were peachy to her.

Other stuff:

You should know that only about the first half or two-thirds of the book are about Holly’s time at the Playboy Mansion. The rest is about her journey after leaving, and her burlesque show in Las Vegas.

If, like me, you listen to the audiobook: Holly’s impression of Hugh Hefner’s voice is surprisingly good, but her attempt to do an English accent (reading the Lewis Carroll quotes that start every chapter) made me want to stab my ear drums.

If you read this book too, I’m curious to know what you thought of it. Let me know in the comments! x

Down the Rabbit Hole, by Holly Madison – My Rating: 3/5


  • Interesting, I did watch this show and Holly always seemed to be so ‘into’ Hef, so I’d be curious to read this and see how she deals with that!

    Lisa | Not Quite Enough

    • saradujour

      I’d love to hear what you think of the book, Lisa! x