My Hollywood, by Mona Simpson (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2010)
"A wonderfully provocative and appealing novel, from the much-loved author of Anywhere But Here and A Regular Guy, her first in ten years. It tells the story of two women whose lives entwine and unfold behind the glittery surface of Hollywood. Claire, a composer and a new mother, comes to LA so her husband can follow his passion for writing television comedy. Suddenly the marriage -- once a genuine 50/50 arrangement --changes, with Paul working long hours and Claire left at home with a baby, William, whom she adores but has no idea how to care for. Lola, a fifty-two-year-old mother of five who is working in America to pay for her own children's higher education back in the Philippines, becomes their nanny. Lola stabilizes the rocky household and soon other parents try to lure her away. What she sacrifices to stay with Claire and 'Williamo' remains her own closely guarded secret. In a novel at turns satirical and heartbreaking, where mothers' modern ideas are given practical overhauls by nannies, we meet Lola's vast network of fellow caregivers, each with her own story to tell. We see the upstairs competition for the best nanny and the downstairs competition for the best deal, and are forced to ask whether it is possible to buy love for our children and what that transaction costs us all. We look into two contemporary marriages -- one in America and one in the Philippines -- and witness their endangerment, despite the best of intentions. My Hollywood is a tender, witty, and resonant novel that provides the profound pleasures readers have come to expect from Mona Simpson, here writing at the height of her powers."
Here I'd hoped for a variation on some of the same themes from The Madonnas of Echo Park -- rather a California-style Nanny Diaries with a bit more racial frisson thrown in. I didn't get it. In short, I found My Hollywood plodding and disappointing, with characters I just couldn't bring myself to care about. If this is Simpson at the height of her powers, I won't be seeking her earlier books out any time soon.
- Ithaca, New York
- MWF, now officially 42, loves long walks on the beach and laughing with friends ... oh, wait. By day, I'm a mid-level university administrator reluctant to be more specific on a public forum. Nights and weekends, though, I'm a homebody with strong nerdist leanings. I'm never happier than when I'm chatting around the fire, playing board games, cooking up some pasta, and/or road-tripping with my family and friends. I studied psychology and then labor economics in school, and I work in higher education. From time to time I get smug, obsessive, or just plain boring about some combination of these topics, especially when inequality, parenting, or consumer culture are involved. You have been warned.