Monday, July 6, 2009

The Age of Dreaming

It's quite a while since I've done a book review. Not because I haven't read any books lately, but nothing has stood out as worth mentioning. Until this one: The Age of Dreaming.

Nina Revoyr is a new author to me, although this is her third novel. I picked up the book in the Library, perusing the dust jacket and thinking that sounds interesting. What I did not expect was a book which impressed me so much with the writing that it made the story almost secondary. Well not quite.

Jun Nakayama was an unlikely superstar in the early years of the silent film industry in Hollywood. Unlikely and quite remarkable, in that he was Japanese but filming in the western world with all that entailed. Abruptly he retired in 1922, at the peak of his career and the book finds him in 1964, an elderly man living a very quiet dignified life.

Nick Bellinger, a young writer, seeks him out for an interview, supposedly for an article on the early film industry. However he has written a screen play which he hopes to have made and with Nakayama in mind for the part. Jun's interaction with the young writer brings back a flood of memories of his glory days and the book goes back and forth between the two eras, as Jun recounts the stories of those days and introduces us to the cast of characters with whom he worked. Besides the director who made him a star and who was murdered at that time, Ashley Bennett Tyler, Jun also tells us of the three women, actresses, who dominated his life at the time.

He embarks on the task of seeking out people from his past life, trying to come to terms with those long ago times and events and this leads to some interesting revelations which I shall leave unspoken.

Besides being beautifully written, I found the story of the early days of the silent film industry to be quite fascinating. I think Jun is beautifully portrayed by the author and on the whole I think it a remarkably good book. Here the book has been summed up so much better than I could.
The Age of Dreaming explores the history of Los Angeles, the heady beginnings of the movie industry, and the interplay of race and celebrity. It is part historical novel, part mystery, and part story of unfulfilled love, all told through the voice of a forgotten star who must gradually come to terms with his past.
As one of the best books I have read in the last few years I can highly recommend it.


6 comments:

Luc Reid said...

That sounds like a great book, and an unusual one too. I'm going to look out for it both as a reader and a writer.

Moggs Tigerpaw said...

An unusual twist having the character it revolves around being a Japanese star in Hollywood. Sounds interesting.

Obviously there were many stars of the silent screen in Japan. But I don't know of any that made it big in early Hollywood. So for that I wonder how historically believable it feels.

I wonder if the writer could have done the same job (possible better) with a woman? ^_^

Liz said...

Our last book group book was The Illustrious Life of Lilly Aphrodite and that was set in the film industry in the early 20th century but in Germany. The story was pretty depressing but it was an interesting glimpse into the world of movie-making.

I wouldn't say go out and read it if it's the last thing you do, but if you've got nothing else ...

CherryPie said...

It sounds an interesting read, I haven't read anything similar.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Hi, jmb. I got here via that new link thing on facebook! I've not heard of this author but that certainly sounds an intriguing read.

jmb said...

I am sure you would enjoy it Luc. It seems to have won a lot of prizes.

Moggs I thought it was interesting that he was such a big star, given the racism shown towards him. I think it was historically accurate to a point since the big actresses mentioned, including a Japanese one were real people.

I find it very interesting from that point of view Liz. How they actually made movies in those days.

It was a first for me too Cherie. Beautifully written book, so worth it for that alone.

Good for you Welshcakes. So it works. A new author for me but I shall look for her other books too.

Thanks to everyone for visiting and commenting.