HIS LITTLE WOMEN by Judith Rossner
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Here's a fascinating surprise: a Hollywood novel by the author of August (1983), etc., but one that only Rossner could have written--about daughters shaped, twisted, and infantilized by a monstrously larger-than-life father figure, the thrice-married producer Sam Pearlstein. The fact that one of them grows up to be a novelist gives Rossner the chance to also explore her secondary interest--the way everyone, fiction writer or not, fills ""in between reality's dots to make a story no one else sees in quite the same way."" The narrator is Sam's second of four daughters and his favorite--Nell, the product of his second marriage (he's like a ""big fish fertilizing eggs all over the ocean and swimming away"") to starlet Violet Vann. When Nell's stepfather, Tony, dies one balmy Hollywood morning in 1965, the serious 17-year-old decides to look up Sam, who she discovers has started a whole new family just across town. At the funeral she also meets her older half-sister Louisa, who's come to LA. from New York to hit up her longlost father for a job. Nell is too young and bereaved to recognize Louisa's jealous hostility toward her--and tags innocently along as Louisa introduces her to the sights and sounds of the I-land, the nerve center for a Playboy like men's magazine called Honey, for which louisa works. Nell's encounter there with one of Tony's sons-in-law--whom she spies making love with one of the ""honeybuns"" beside the pool--will prove the crux of the libel suit that follows, contesting Louisa's use of the fellow in a novel called The Daughters of Joe Stalbin. The irony is that he played only a small part in the book, and came out looking hardly as bad as Sam. Though Louisa will win the court battle (highlighted by a missing witness' surprise appearance, engineered, of course, by Sam), Nell--now aware of her half-sister's resentment toward her--is left to wonder about Louisa's true motives, i.e., her fiction as aggression. And when Sam dies of a stroke brought on by terminal self-indulgence, she must find a way to grow from daughter into woman and concoct her own version of Sam. As usual, Rossner piles on the characters and subplots, making this book's points confusing and hard to fred. Still, interest rarely flags here, as Rossner taps the Hollywood scene for deftly handled moments of titillation that should attract hordes of readers--even if what she's really up to remains as elusive as a smogless L.A. day.

Pub Date: April 25th, 1990
Publisher: Summit/Simon & Schuster