Karyn L. Barr
March 07, 2003 AT 05:00 AM EST

) In her quirky first book, fair-haired London Times photography critic Pitman gets to the root of blond hair’s power by chronicling history’s most influential blondes and the measures that women — from rumored towhead Cleopatra to ambitious blonde Madonna — have taken to harness the power of golden locks. (The ancient Romans’ use of pigeon dung as a bleaching agent had this bottle blonde praising the wonders of L’Oreal.) Granted, the opening chapters are ridden with labored descriptions of lesser-known works of art and long-forgotten antiquity, but the second half is definitely a highlight. For example, did you know that when politically savvy Margaret Thatcher lightened up, she reportedly gained respect from foreign statesmen who were attracted to her ”uncompromising blonde helmet”? An engaging and dishy read, On Blondes will have power-hungry brunettes reaching for the peroxide.

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