Winter in Hollywood by Richard Teleky

Winter in Hollywood by Richard Teleky

Reviewed by L.D.Y.

Hardcover, 258 pages, 2006

Rating: 9/10

Reason for Reading: Teleky was a creative writing professor (though, not mine) when I was at York University, which lead me to one of his previous novels, Pack Up the Moon.

Synopsis: Irene Dunne is a recent widow, still adjusting to her loss when more terrible news comes: her daughter has been killed in a car accident. She heads to Hollywood, where her daughter Holly worked as a film producer, intending to tie up loose ends, but instead finds herself haunted by the things she never knew about her daughter, working her way into the lives of her daughter’s friends and neighbours in an attempt to discover in death what her daughter wouldn’t let her know in life.

Why you should read this book: Winter in Hollywood is a story of relationships and secrets, a great exploration of a mother-daughter relationship – even though the daughter appears only in the memories of her mother and other people she left behind. The death of a child rather than the parent leaves Irene in the strange position of confronting a life that never would have been revealed to her had her daughter lived. Not only does Irene confront it, she lives it, and it’s fun to watch an older woman come out of her sheltered life to experience a bit of Hollywood glam – and the completely unexpected surprises from Holly’s former neighbours. A little touching, a little sad, a little funny, and an all-around great read if you love character-driven stories.

Why you should avoid this book: There are definitely the occasional heavy-handed spots that make you think ‘yup, this was definitely written by a professor,’ but it is a lighter hand than in Pack Up the Moon and for the most part feels like it was written for the reader.

Opening paragraph:

An old woman stands before an unfamiliar door, fumbling in her purse – a sensible rectangle of black leather – for the strange key. She feels a wave of panic, not regular or predictable like an ocean tide, but threatening, as if it would overpower her and she has to stay still, perfectly still, in order to withstand the force. She might never move again. Behind her, the silent hallway offers neither support nor encouragement. Its silvery green walls, like palace walls, conceal as well as protect.

Fabulous quotes:

‘She was so good to me. Last year when she bought new suitcases, she gives me the old ones, and they are like new. She gives me clothes for my nieces and I pass them on.’
Irene thought of the years when her mother had cleaned houses and the castoffs she’d salvaged. ‘I’m glad,’ she said.
At first, touching Holly’s towels, or sleeping on her sheets, had made Irene tremble. Holly’s hands must have folded back the same comforter, smoothed the soft pillowcases. But Elena had handled all of them too, laundered them and put them away.

After Irene gathered her nightgown and toothbrush, she went back to Holly’s, where silence engulfed her. She stared at the telephone. Just dial – dial someone. Ann Landers said to get a pet if you felt lonely, pets were a boon to old ladies alone. Didn’t she know that a day had more than twenty-four hours? Irene tried not to imagine the elementary school several blocks away, passed on some morning walks. There must have been long evenings when Holly and Magda talked, drinks in hand, making plans, speculating. Our plan, hadn’t Magda said? As if Holly lacked a mother to confide in.

Also recommended: Testament by Nino Ricci; The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory; Slammerkin by Emma Donoghue; The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber.

Also by this author: Pack Up the Moon; The Paris Years of Rosie Kamin; Goodnight, Sweetheart and Other Stories; Hungarian Rhapsodies: Essays on Ethnicity, Identity and Culture;  The Hermit’s Kiss.

Fun tidbit: Click here to read about Teleky discussing the real life and fictional parallels of a character in Pack Up the Moon, who is roughly based on someone he once knew.

Would I read more by this author? Probably.

© Lisa Yanaky 2003-2007

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