Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Stars Over Sunset Boulevard by Susan Meissner

Stars Over Sunset Boulevard.  Susan Meissner. Penguin Group (USA). January 2016.  400 pp.  ISBN#: 9780451475992.

Christine McAllister discovers a hat that looks familiar.  It is, in fact, a hat worn in the filming of Gone With The Wind in 1938.  She has a strong sense that she needs to return it to its owner and in doing so will learn of a friendship that endured so much mistruth and even accidental betrayal.

Back in 1938 Violet Mayfield has come to Hollywood to escape heartbreak of a lost love, a severe illness and the knowledge she will never get to have the family with children she so desperately longed for. On arrival she immediately meets Audrey Duvall, who is in Hollywood to achieve her movie star dream.  Audrey had once been chosen to be a star in a big film but that movie project was canceled at the last minute.  Now she’s just as determined to attain her dream with hard work and placing herself near those in power who make the decisions on who will be the next big film star.  So far Audrey’s efforts have been in vain.  On meeting Violet at the railroad stations, Audrey and Violet hit it off and decide to become roommates.  Violet brings zest and old Southern comfort food cooking to brighten up Audrey’s bleak days.

Violet and Audrey work as stenographers in the production offices and later get to work on the actual set of Gone With The Wind.  They find plenty of good times after work with an old friend of Audrey, Bert.   Violet will make a huge mistake in trying to connect Audrey with a well-known star, hoping she will be noticed and asked to audition for a role.  Although her effort was totally innocent and loving in intention, it turns out to be a huge mistake that almost destroys their friendship.  Other scenes of an even worse nature will follow which test their relationship to the max.  The family backgrounds of both women, as well, are painful and await reconciliation.

Years later, Bert and Violet are married, happy in their work and taking care of a daughter who calls Violet’s best friend Aunt Audrey.  Secrets will gradually be revealed that will test again relationships, secrets that should have been honestly exposed years earlier.

Stars over Sunset Boulevard is an intense, engaging and riveting novel about what Hollywood offers and the adventure-filled, exciting but costly consequences of entering the limelight of stars, assistants and underlings who work in the evanescent atmosphere of those who yearn for fame.  Be careful, indeed, for what you wish!

Very nicely crafted, Susan Meissner!

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