Sister Hollywood

C. K. Stead, Author
C. K. Stead, Author St. Martin's Press $15.95 (220p) ISBN 978-0-312-04423-7
Reviewed on: 01/01/1989
Release date: 01/01/1989
New Zealander Stead's fifth novel, the first to be published in the U.S., follows the lives of Bill Harper, who as a boy in Auckland relied on movies to escape familial turmoil, and Arlene Tamworth, newly arrived in Hollywood, whose success in the studios parallels her husband Rocky's failure. Bill's 1940s Hollywood is a magical state of mind rather than an actual place; Arlene's is also unreal--the candy-coating of a dream disguising a dingy nightmare. While Arlene uses Hollywood to escape a painful past, Bill uses it to confront his, specifically the possibility that his long-missing sister Edie may be living there. Despite narration that mixes past and present, dream and reality, historical fact and fiction, the plot remains clear and its deeper meanings intriguing. Although the underdeveloped characters' motives and confusions are never sorted out, Stead's depiction of the movie industry in its golden age and the McCarthy era, as well as the real Hollywood beneath the glitter, is solid and thoughtful. Particularly charming are his poetic descriptions of lush scenery that serve to contrast Auckland with its officially designated sister city, Los Angeles. (Aug.)
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