A Touch of Stardust by Kate Alcott
Publishing Date: February 17
Genre: historical fiction
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.
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.
Julie Crawford dreams of becoming a screenwriter, and what better place to go than Hollywood. Her arrival is perfect, because the intimidating perfectionist David Selznick is in the beginning stages of filming Gone With the Wind. Originally placed in publicity, Julie’s luck changes when she meets Andy Weinstein, Selznick’s assistant, and Carole Lombard, the soon-to-be-wife to Clark Gable and Hollywood’s hottest female actress. Together, these two help Julie inch closer to her goal, while the whirlwind of the biggest movie of all time coincides with whisperings of a second world war.
I’ve been an Alcott fan from the start (Dressmaker, Daring Ladies of Lowell), and this book is just as wonderful as it is different from her previous publications. Julie, fresh from college with big dreams, is eager and determined to make her way through life without the help of her stifling Midwestern parents. She’s young, naive, and starry-eyed, and thus falls into several Hollywood holes on her journey. But her awe ceases once she meets the actors, the humans behind the characters they play. Shy Clark, energetic Carole, poised Vivienne, humorous Hattie — even the eye-gauging-inducing producer, David (oh my LORD that man drove me insane). And on this journey is someone who challenges her and supports her: Andy.
Andy, working as Selznick’s right hand man, is constantly under pressure and works hard to keep publicity from freaking out and Selznick from blowing a gasket. He’s also Jewish, which poses a problem whenever the glamor of a movie set fades away and real world politics leaks in. With family in Berlin, he’s watching the papers and listening to the radio, waiting for the right moment to head off to Europe.
I liked how Julie interacted with Andy. (With all the characters, really, especially Carole. Those two were more than boss and assistant — they were genuine girlfriends always ready to rush over and save the day during a crisis.) She was believably shy and quick to become jealous — hard not to be when he’s an older man and in the business and city of artful lies — which felt authentic for her age and upbringing. I felt connected with her as a mid-twenties Midwestern girl. At the same time, watching her grow with him, stand up for herself and demand respect and equality in the relationship, that was wonderfully empowering. My only wish was for Andy to be less of a downer with her. He felt more real and promising at the baseball game than at any other time. Yet, of course he’s a bit on the down side — he’s stressed in several areas of his life, has a decade more in experience and reality, and knows that Julie is only just beginning. I didn’t love him the way Julie did — but I could certainly see why she did.
Do not be fooled by the jacket summary! This novel is far more about a girl’s journey in the magic of Hollywood during the filming of the greatest American films in history than it is about love affairs — and thank goodness for that!
Thank you, Edelweiss, for providing this copy from Doubleday for review!
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