Rumors of a lost silent film send a quirky heroine and her bemused boyfriend on a delightful escapade.
It may be tough to make ends meet on her shopgirl’s paycheck from Vintage Visions, but Ceinwen Reilly embraces a poor-yet-glamorous approach to life, dressing in retro fashions and watching classic movies every night. But the balance is upset when Matthew Hill, a charming British mathematician, and his snooty girlfriend, Anna, waltz into the store. Ceinwen’s dismay at Anna’s arrogance turns to horror when she buys the earrings Ceinwen had set aside for herself. Less than a week later, Matthew is back in the shop, inviting Ceinwen to dinner, and a vintage-film–fueled romance ensues. Maybe it’s the moonlight, or maybe it’s the movies, but Ceinwen becomes convinced that Miriam, her downstairs neighbor, was part of the silent-film industry. Trouble is, Miriam isn’t talking. Soon enough, Ceinwen has turned amateur detective, dragging Matthew along as Nick to her Nora Charles. GQ’s 2008 Film Blogger of the Year, Nehme seamlessly weaves film titles, trivia and technical lore into her debut novel. Her pacing is exhilarating, racing Ceinwen and Matthew (well, mostly Ceinwen) from an obscure film preservation society (run by a curator stern enough to frighten even the man secretly in love with her) to a vintage flicks screening club to a rather dodgy collector’s apartment. An array of fabulous minor characters pops up along the way. It’s a screwball comedy wedded to a gothic novel: Anna, Ceinwen’s rival for Matthew’s affections, is, of course, Italian; Matthew himself is Catholic; and the missing film is a classic of gothic fiction. Through it all, Ceinwen and Matthew patter at a speed Katherine Hepburn would admire.
Simply grand; this tale begs to be filmed.