The basics: Set during the filming of Gone with the Wind, A Touch of Stardust is the story of Julie Crawford, an aspiring screenwriter from Fort Wayne, Indiana, who finds a job as Carole Lombard's personal assistant.
My thoughts: I'll admit it: I've never read Gone with the Wind, nor have I seen the film. Growing up in Atlanta, its story was hard to ignore, and I certainly feel like I knew enough about it to understand its role in this story. (And yes, it did make me want to both read and see it.) Julie is such a wonderful character, and she is the perfect somewhat starstruck Hollywood newcomer to serve as a window into this world.
I'm a big fan of historical fiction about real people, and A Touch of Stardust infuses the real people (Carole Lombard, Clark Gable, Vivian Leigh) with fictional characters like Julie. This mix works so well because while the general storyline of the filming of Gone with the Wind and its stars are well known, there were so many other things going on in the world. Through Julie's romance with Andy, a Jewish executive who serves as Selznick's most trusted ally. Through Andy, we get insight into what it was like to be Jewish in Hollywood at that time, but we also get to see how different Hollywood was from the rest of the country in that respect, as well as how the escalation of Hitler in Europe would shape the future. As I describe all that is in A Touch of Stardust, it feels like it should be too much, but it isn't. As much as I loved Julie, in many ways Carole Lombard is the star of this book. Before I make time to watch Gone with the Wind, I'm settling in to watch some of her films to see how her on-screen persona matches up with Alcott's imagination of her.
The verdict: A Touch of Stardust is feel good historical fiction at its best. Julie is a character to root for, and while she's an educated, independent woman, she is not an anachronism for her time. Through Julie, the reader glimpses Old Hollywood at a fascinating, pivotal time. There's plenty of darkness, but both the tone of the novel and its characters remain hopeful.
Audio thoughts: As always, Cassandra Campbell's narration is wonderful. Her interpretation of Julie was the perfect mix of naive and strong, but I particularly appreciated the voices she used for the other main characters, especially Andy.
Rating: 4 out of 5 (audio 4.5 out of 5)
Length: 10 hours 57 minutes (306 pages)
Publication date: February 17, 2015
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