From the New York Times bestselling author of The Dressmaker and A Touch of Stardust, comes a Hollywood coming-of-age novel, in which Ingrid Bergman's affair with Roberto Rossellini forces her biggest fan to reconsider everything she was raised to believe
In 1950, Ingrid Bergman—already a major star after movies like Casablanca and Joan of Arc—has a baby out of wedlock with her Italian lover, film director Roberto Rossellini. Previously held up as an icon of purity, Bergman's fall shocked her legions of American fans.
Growing up in Hollywood, Jessica Malloy watches as her PR executive father helps make Ingrid a star at Selznick Studio. Over years of fleeting interactions with the actress, Jesse comes to idolize Ingrid, who she considered not only the epitome of elegance and integrity, but also the picture-perfect mother, an area where her own difficult mom falls short.
In a heated era of McCarthyism and extreme censorship, Ingrid's affair sets off an international scandal that robs seventeen-year-old Jesse of her childhood hero. When the stress placed on Jesse's father begins to reveal hidden truths about the Malloy family, Jesse's eyes are opened to the complex realities of life—and love.
Beautifully written and deeply moving, The Hollywood Daughter is an intimate novel of self-discovery that evokes a Hollywood sparkling with glamour and vivid drama.
Alcott, who has written before about Old Hollywood (A Touch of Stardust), returns with this affecting coming-of-age novel. Jessica Malloy is the daughter of a devoutly Catholic mother and a father who works as a PR executive with Selznick Pictures. His job involves selling Ingrid Bergman to the American public, which puts his career on the fast track until she has an affair and a child out of wedlock. Jessica idolizes Bergman, adores her father, but cannot connect with her cold and often-fragile mother. Alcott effectively uses Bergman's 1950 fall from grace, seen through Jessica's eyes, to illustrate the Catholic Church's influence on the era's culture, McCarthyism, and the constraints of women's roles. This narrative alternates with 1959, in which Jessica, now a standoffish New York copywriter pigeonholed by her gender, she receives a mysterious invitation to attend the Academy Awards ceremony. The author draws in readers from the start with smooth writing. Her storytelling skillfully taps into Jessica's black-and-white adolescent worldview and the distance she maintains from others as an adult, making both real and surprisingly emotional.)\n
fortunes and futures are inexorably tied to the industry and the questions.
Oh this was fun, and plays with the golden ages of Hollywood, the 1940’s and 1950’s where the freedoms for stars were usually hidden from the public eye, and the Catholic Church and the influence of the Red Scare and the despotic actions of Joe McCarthy were headline news. Alcott uses the then shocking affair of Ingrid Bergman and Roberto Rosselini to bring the story to light.
Jessica Malloy was a child, daughter of a Hollywood PR man, and Bergman’s agent. Add to that, her family is devoutly Catholic, and the choices made by the actors her father represented were often problematic in a moral sense But, Alcott takes us deeper, as we see Jessica’s understanding of the situation as a child: the uptick in the Red Scare and blacklisting, and her own concerns with her father’s involvement, or lack thereof as their fortunes and futures are inexorably tied to the industry and the questions.
While Bergman caused quite a stir, and her affair and subsequent pregnancy become a liability to Hollywood studios, she is banished, and Jessica’s father, as her agent, loses a formerly powerful star, but one who had a great impact on the young Jessica, encouraging her natural curiosity and standing for choices. Alcott uses these lessons, couched in stories from film sets, tales of wrongly accused and berated individuals, and the rampant McCarthyism that placed fear above fact and thought to tell the story, and cleverly parallels Jessica’s own learning curve with the story and her own family’s secrets, adding depth and perspective to Jessica’s story, giving her plenty to fight for or against. Frustrated and disillusioned, she leaves the West Coast heading for New York, and is divorced from the whole scene until an anonymous invitation to the Oscars gives her the opportunity to dig deeper and come to terms with the questions stil lurking.
While I enjoyed this story, and the details and information were clearly presented, there was a naiveté to Jessica that made her much younger (even for her age) than I expected, even for the time. There was also an importance added to the facts and descriptions that left the emotional components less present, and while I enjoyed Jessica, and could understand her confusion and questions, I never really had that emotional connection to her. What did come forward were multiple lessons about crowd mentality, the power of fear as a tool to control, and the dangers of one man, unchecked, given the ability to redesign the world to his own standards: without actually deigning to answer to, be questioned by, or throttled in any way. A curious connection to present day, presented without actually attempting to approach the current state of affairs, and all the more powerful for it.
I received an eArc copy of the title for the publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.