Book - 2009 | First edition
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From the author of the acclaimed best seller Carter Beats the Devil comes a grand entertainment with the brilliantly realized figure of Charlie Chaplin at its center: a novel at once cinematic and intimate, thrilling and darkly comic, that dramatizes the moment when American capitalism, a world at war, and the emerging mecca of Hollywood intersect to spawn an enduring culture of celebrity.
Sunnyside opens on a winter day in 1916 during which Chaplin is spotted in more than eight hundred places simultaneously, an extraordinary mass delusion. From there, the novel follows the overlapping fortunes of three men: Leland Wheeler, son of the world's last (and worst) Wild West star, as he heads to the battlefields of France; snobbish Hugo Black, drafted to fight under the towering General Edmund Ironside in America's doomed engagement with Russia; and Chaplin himself, as he faces a tightening vice of complications--studio moguls, questions about his patriotism, his unchecked heart, and, most menacing of all, his mother--to finally make a movie as good as he was.
With a cast of enthralling characters, both historical and fictional--Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, a thieving Girl Scout, a lovestruck film theorist, Russian princesses, even Rin Tin Tin--Sunnyside is a heartrending, spellbinding novel about American promises both kept and betrayed.
Publisher: New York : Alfred A. Knopf, c2009
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9780307270689
Branch Call Number: FIC
Characteristics: 559 pages ; 25 cm


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Cdnbookworm Sep 10, 2011

This is a very complex novel with several storylines.
It begins on November 12, 1916 with a day where there were sightings of Charlie Chaplin in many places (a real historical happening). The book follows not only Chaplin himself, but also Leland Wheeler (aka Lee Duncan) a young man who witnesses one of the sightings and risks his life in trying to reach Chaplin. Leland has a dream of being on the big screen, and despite several setbacks, never lets that dream go. We also follow another young man, Hugo Black, who goes on to be an American soldier fighting in Russia, an extension of the first World War that is little acknowledged. There are several other figures we move on at different times: generals, actors, young women with their own agenda, but the three young men, Chaplin, Leland, and Hugo are the primary focus.
With scenes from Hollywood to Germany, France to Russia, the environment varies widely. We see the rise of actors' rights in Hollywood, the terror and tragedy of World War One, the bleakness of the Russian campaign. We see the loss of dreams and the achievement of dreams. We see families and the dynamics that take place within them. There is sadness and joy here, and much to take in.
The author has included historical figures and events along with fictional ones, and it is interesting to see the linkages. We see the beginning of the career of Rin Tin Tin here as well.

May 19, 2011

I had high hopes for this book because I loved the author's previous novel, Carter Beats the Devil. I'm happy I stuck with it, but it did not live up to my expectations.

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