you ever been friends with someone who seems almost your polar
opposite? When outgoing Audrey agrees to let a room to reserved Violet,
neither woman thought they'd ever be close. But shared adventures and
shared secrets during the filming of Gone with the Wind solidify their friendship, even when men and ambition threaten to tear them apart. Here's Violet's first impression of Audrey:
A brilliant California sun bathed Violet Mayfield in indulgent light as she neared the soaring palm tree and the woman seated on the bench underneath it. Legs crossed at the ankles, the woman rested her back lazily against the skinny trunk. She held a cigarette in her right hand, and it was as if the thin white tube was a part of her and the stylish smoke that swirled from it an extension of her body. The woman's fingernails, satin red and glistening, were perfectly shaped. Toenails visible to Violet through peep-toes winked the same shade of crimson. The woman wore a formfitting sheath of celery green with a scoop neckline. A magazine lay open on her lap, but her tortoiseshell sunglasses hid her eyes, so Violet couldn't tell whether the woman was reading the article on the left page or gazing at handsome Cary Grant, whose photograph graced the right.—Stars over Sunset Boulevard by Susan Meissner (New American Library, 2016, opening of chap. 1; egalley)
- Setting: 1930s and modern times; California (Hollywood)
- Circumstances: In the 1930s, Violet and Audrey meet at Selznick International Studios as filming begins of Gone with the Wind. Each has her own ambitions and harbors secrets from her past. The two bond, but their friendship is strained by a potential love triangle. In modern times, vintage clothing store owner Christine is asked by a distraught client to return a green velvet hat, which bears an intriguing label: "Scarlet #13." The hat sparks long-buried memories, and Christine begins to search for the truth of her own past.
- Genre: historical fiction
- Themes: women's friendship, loyalty, love, dreams, classic Hollywood
- Characters: Violet, an Alabama native; Audrey, a California native; Bert, a costumer, an old friend of Audrey's, and a potential love interest; Susan Myrick, friend of Margaret Mitchell and film adviser; various studio employees, stars, family, and friends
- What's happened so far: I'm a quarter of the way through and have just gotten past the basic setup of the novel. I've learned why Audrey ended up in Hollywood, but I haven't discovered what motivated Violet to leave home and move out west. I bet there's more to it than the promise of a job in the studio typing pool. The women's friendship is deepening, and Violet has been asked to assist to Susan Myrick on the movie set. So far, I don't know much at all about the modern-day story or how Christine is connected to Violet and Audrey.
- Gone with the Wind: I'm a big fan of the movie and the book, so reading this novel about the filming and the costuming is a lot of fun. I'm also learning how the Selznick Studio worked (not all of it pretty) and the obstacles hardworking young women faced.
- Two random thoughts: I hope the potential love triangle is sorted out before it becomes a triangle. I hope the two time periods are pulled together in a believable way.
- Recommendations: If you like historical fiction, old Hollywood, Gone with the Wind, and/or stories about women's friendships, you'll probably like Stars over Sunset Boulevard. Because I haven't finished the book, I can't promise that Susan Meissner delivers, but for now I'm on board. This is a light novel, perfect for a Saturday afternoon or a daily commute.