Lulu in Babylon by Allison Silver

Lulu in Babylon

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Silver (20th Century Travel, 2010) delivers a Hollywood coming-of-age story with a reverence for the stars and stories of old Hollywood.

Fifteen-year-old Lulu comes to Los Angeles to spend the summer with her father, Milo, a hotshot director, and her stepmother, Francesca, an actress on the rise. Lulu is there not only to spend time with her father after a long time away, but also because her mother, Claire, is battling cancer. Lulu is a fish out of water in glitzy Hollywood, having grown up in Boston with her patrician mother’s family, and she must learn to get by in the strange new environment. Silver also focuses on Ben Robbins, a producer trying to get a new production company off the ground, as well as on excerpts from the diary of Lulu’s grandfather, Abe. These entries give readers a slice of life from old Hollywood, filled with big stars and even bigger personalities. Parties and dinners make up the bulk of the book; Ben sets up meals to promote his projects, Abe writes about going to three parties or more per night, and Lulu goes to high-profile events with her father. At one, Lulu meets Connor, a young, handsome actor on the cusp of stardom, and they quickly hit it off, adding a romantic undercurrent to Lulu’s conventional story of growth. However, Silver’s frequent use of aforementioned party and dinner scenes gets repetitive; a trip on a yacht in the Mediterranean in the book’s latter half is a welcome change. Some analogies are clunky (“her voice was high and chirpy, as if she’d just had a date with a helium tank”), but, for the most part, Silver’s writing is clear and light. She also has a great handle on details, from the preferred brands of celebrities to the formulaic way that Hollywood people talk to one another, be it glad-handing industry talk or gossip. Lulu and Ben are well-drawn, but much of the supporting cast is thinly characterized, leading to an uneven reading experience.

For lovers of Hollywood, this novel offers an immersive look at the past and present of the movie business, though its plot beats may be overly familiar.

Pub Date: April 14th, 2016
ISBN: 978-0-9905602-8-9
Page count: 354pp
Publisher: Marmont Lane
Program: Kirkus Indie
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