The Hollywood life is a glamorous one – at least that’s what it looks like on Oscar night. However, in three recent novels we’ve read (and loved), it seems celebrity is far more fleeting.
The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty gives us a slightly different look at the Hollywood life – an outsider’s look at the early life of silent film star Louise Brooks. It’s 1922 and Louise Brooks needs a chaperone while she goes to New York City to attend the Denishawn School of Dance. Cora Carlisle has her own need to visit New York City so decides to take the opportunity to accompany the free-spirited fifteen-year-old Louise. After the trying summer with Louise is over, we follow Cora throughout the rest of her life and catch glimpses of Louise’s success and failures along the way.
Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures by Emma Straub takes us on a journey spanning decades from rural Wisconsin to the bright lights of Hollywood. The book follows Laura from her childhood in Wisconsin in 1929 when she was simply Elsa Emerson to the height of her career during the “Golden Age” of Hollywood and finally to her later years filled with struggle and heartbreak. While Laura Lamont is a fictional starlet, while reading you get the sense that this is the story lived by many women that went to Hollywood with big dreams.
We’ve mentioned this one before, but this just goes to show how much we enjoyed it. Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter opens in 1962 with a beautiful American actress – Dee Moray – appearing on the rocky beach of a small Italian inn owned by Pasquale. A bond forms between the innkeeper and the actress, but they’re separated and decades later Pasquale appears at the office of a film producer in search of Dee. As the story unfolds, we visit the movie set of Cleopatra, a film studio in Hollywood, and a small theater in Idaho and along the way we learn of the missed opportunities and loss experienced by each character.
Interested in non-fiction? Try…
- Lulu in Hollywood by Louise Brooks – Essays by the actress (perfect to pair with The Chaperone)
- Furious Love: Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, and the Marriage of the Century by Sam Kashner and Nancy Shoenberger – Details the tumultuous marriage(s) of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton
- I Know Where I’m Going: Katherine Hepburn, a Personal Biography by Charlotte Chandler – Based on interviews during the 1970s and 1980s with Hepburn, covering her marriage, affair with Spencer Tracy, and more.
- Possessed: The Life of Joan Crawford by Donald Spoto – A look at the ambitious Crawford’s life from her childhood in Texas to her rise to stardom and beyond.
Do you have a favorite Hollywood story (fiction or non-fiction)? Share it with us in the comments.