Gumption. A marvelous, old-fashioned word, isn't it? And, it beautifully describes the strength of some of the characters in Kate Alcott's novel A Touch of Stardust. Julie Crawford may be a green newcomer when she arrives in Hollywood with dreams, but a couple friends help her on her way, including a star who becomes a role model, Carole Lombard.
1938 and 1939 were magical years in Hollywood with the making of Gone with the Wind. Fresh from her hometown of Fort Wayne, Indiana after graduating from Smith College, Julie Crawford lands a job in the publicity department at the Selznick studio where Atlanta went up in flames, and David O. Selznick was searching for his Scarlett O'Hara. Julie isn't there to be an actress, though. Her ambition is to be a screenwriter. She finds her own touches of magic on the set, though. She meets Andy Weinstein, an assistant producer, and Carole Lombard. When Lombard takes Julie under her wing, and hires her as an assistant, Julie finds herself with an insider's view of the truth behind the glamour, a view of Carole's love for Clark Gable, and an unexpected mentor.
It wasn't all stardust and magic in those years, though. For a time, Lombard and Gable waited for his divorce. There were tears and tension on the set of Gone with the Wind, as Selznick fired directors, and shut down filming. The novel shows racism, racial and religious prejudice. And, all of the tension extends into the relationship between Julie and Andy, as he works on the set, and worries about his relatives in Europe. But, Julie continues to fight for her dream, and with Carole Lombard's guidance, to fight for her relationship with Andy.
Kate Alcott's novel contains clouds, with the overshadowing war, and, the future of the Lombard/Gable relationship for those who know Carole Lombard's fate. There's sorrow mixed with stardust for Julie as well. The book itself is quietly magical, as it brings Hollywood in those years to life, as seen through the eyes of an ambitious young woman. Her starry eyes grow to see the realism behind the glamorous sets of Gone with the Wind, behind the scenes in other studios, and behind glamorous Hollywood relationships. Alcott's characters are well-rounded, created in vivid detail, particularly her two females, Julie Crawford and Carole Lombard.
A Touch of Stardust is a perfect title. Julie's life is touched by all the magic surrounding Gone with the Wind, all the magic surrounding Carole Lombard and Clark Gable, and the magic of Hollywood. There's romance amidst the day-to-day life of the studios in 1938 and 1939. And, there's truly a touch of stardust in that beautiful connection between Julie and her mentor, the woman who steered her through a relationship and the hullabaloo of the studio world, Carole Lombard. It's that relationship that makes this book stand out.
Kate Alcott's website is www.katealcott.com
A Touch of Stardust by Kate Alcott. Doubleday. 2015. ISBN 9780385539043 (hardcover), 304p.
FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.