Sunday, August 28, 2016

Review: A Touch of Stardust

A Touch of Stardust
by Kate Alcott

Why did you choose this book? I’ve read and enjoyed previous books by the author
When did you read this book? Aug 2016
Who should read this book? Readers who enjoyed Hollywood fiction
Source: library ebook
Here is a synopsis of A Touch of Stardust from Goodreads

When Julie Crawford leaves Fort Wayne, Indiana for Hollywood, she never imagines she'll cross paths with Carole Lombard, the dazzling actress from Julie's provincial Midwestern hometown. Although the young woman has dreams of becoming a screenwriter, the only job Julie's able to find is one in the studio publicity office of the notoriously demanding producer David O. Selznick —who is busy burning through directors, writers and money as he begins filming Gone with the Wind.     

Although tensions run high on the set, Julie finds she can step onto the back lot, take in the smell of smoky gunpowder and the soft rustle of hoop skirts, and feel the magical world of Gone with the Wind come to life. Julie's access to real-life magic comes when Carole Lombard hires her as an assistant and invites her into the glamorous world Carole shares with Clark Gable—who is about to move into movie history as the dashing Rhett Butler.

Carole Lombard, happily profane and uninhibited, makes no secret of her relationship with Gable, which poses something of a problem for the studio as Gable is technically still married—and the last thing the film needs is more negative publicity. Julie is there to fend off the overly curious reporters, hoping to prevent details about the affair from slipping out. But she can barely keep up with her blonde employer, let alone control what comes out of Carole's mouth, and--as their friendship grows - soon finds she doesn't want to. Carole, both wise and funny, becomes Julie's model for breaking free of the past.

In the ever-widening scope of this story, Julie is given a front-row seat to not one but two of the greatest love affairs of all time: the undeniable on-screen chemistry between Scarlett and Rhett, and off screen, the deepening love between Carole and Clark. Yet beneath the shiny façade, things in Hollywood are never quite what they seem, and Julie must learn to balance career aspirations and her own budding romance with outsized personalities and the overheated drama on set.

My Review

I’ve had this one on my list since before it was released last year, because everything I’ve read by Kate Alcott I’ve enjoyed, The Dressmaker and The Daring Ladies of Lowell! This was no exception! This book was a pleasure to read and moved very quickly. The setting is Hollywood during the filming of Gone With The Wind and if you’ve seen and loved the movie as I have, you can’t help but enjoy this book. You will definitely recognize some of the scenes filmed, and probably learn a bit about the filming, too. For example, I had no idea that the ‘burning of Atlanta’ scene was shot before the role of Scarlett was even cast! It makes perfect sense though, when you learn the burning took place to eliminate sets used in previous films to make way for the building of Tara!

I didn’t know much about Clark Gable’s marriage to Carole Lombard, except that he was married to her, and knew even less about Carole. I really enjoyed getting to know her through this novel. I will probably now go out and look for a few of her films to view!

The story itself centers around Julie, a young college graduate who comes to Hollywood hoping to become a screenwriter. She is befriended by Carole, and develops a relationship with Andy, a key assistant to David Selznick, the producer of Gone With The Wind. One thing that is really interesting is the restraints set on young women at this time. The Hollywood bigwigs tried to control the relationships of their ‘properties’ (the actors and actresses). Julie had to worry about her parents demanding she return to Fort Wayne, her home town, and their reaction to her relationship with Andy, a Jew. Her parents were not alone in the antisemitism. It was a good story, but I felt there were some loose ends I would have liked to have seen tied up with a bow in the form of an epilogue!

One interesting little tidbit I learned from the author’s notes, one of the characters who Julie runs into at an event is Herman Mankiewicz, the father of Kate Alcott’s husband, Frank Mankiewicz. She mentions that she drew upon her husband’s memories to help ‘enter’ that period of time. She did a great job helping me feel the glamour of the era. If you enjoy the golden age of Hollywood and Gone With The Wind, you will definitely want to pick this one up! And if you enjoyed Gone With The Wind and the Golden Age of Hollywood, you should also take a look at Adriana Trigiani’s book set in the era, All The Stars In The Heavens.

My Rating:  ★★★★    4 Stars

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  1. This founds fascinating! I've only seen Gone With the Wind once, so what draws me to this the most isn't the topic, but the focus on a nontraditional woman in history. Carole Lombard sounds like a very interesting person to read about.

    1. She was a fascinating least in this book. She seems like someone I would have liked having as a friend!