The Lure of Witty Escapist Fiction – Starstruck by Rachel Shukert

Posted by Justine Solomons on February 18, 2013, in Recommendations

Preorder this book here.

Review written by Julia Newhouse.

There is nothing quite as enjoyable on a cold winter’s day as a good, hearty bowl of escapist fiction. There is something wonderfully all-encompassing about the kind of book that envelopes you. Set in another place, in another time, it is nothing like your life. And yet, you relate to the characters, and feel like every inch of the story could be happening around you. I recently found Rachel Shukert’s upcoming Starstruck fall into my lap, and could not have had a better dose of winter blues’ medicine come my way.

The book is the first in a three part series set in 1930s Hollywood. Shukert creates a wonderfully drawn world of movie stars, omnipotent studio executives, and manufactured glamour and charm. We see the lives of three very different young women in Hollywood’s golden age unfold as readers enter the fictional world of Olympus Studios. Child star turning adult, Gabby Preston is fighting for some form of independence, but subsisting almost exclusively on green uppers and blue downers doled out by the studio doctor.  Plucked from obscurity, and preened to within an inch of her life, debutante Margaret Frobisher was made into the dashing Margo Sterling. Flooded with sudden fame, and disowned for pursuing her Hollywood dream, Margo has a lot to learn about showbiz. And then there is Amanda Farraday. A former runaway, she finds her way into the studio via a stint as one of Olive Moore’s most expensive good time girls. Unlike Margo and Gabby, Amanda is not looking for fame - just her own happy ending.

Book one wonderfully establishes each girl’s character, and I am dying to see how their stories play out in books two and three. Rachel Shukert’s writing is clever and snappy, with each chapter propelling you onto the next. This is the kind of book you might plan to read a sample of, and find you have read the whole thing in an evening. The tone is light, and there are a lot of little events to keep you interested while the overarching stories slowly unfold. Published as young adult, this can and would appeal to many teens, but is by no means too junior for the discerning adult. This is a witty, and engaging story about the glamour of Hollywood’s golden age, and the underbelly of fame. Cleverly overlapping her fictional characters with cameos by all the stars of the day - Judy Garland, Vivien Leigh, and Clark Gable, to name a few, and setting the frivolity of Hollywood’s golden era against the slow outbreak of war in Europe, Shukert has written an arresting little gem that you won’t want to put down.

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