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

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Lulu in Babylon

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 14, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9905602-8-9

Page Count: 354

Publisher: Marmont Lane

Review Posted Online: June 4, 2016

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

THE AUTHENTICITY PROJECT

A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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