My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Kate Alcott’s novel, The Hollywood Daughter, which I received through Goodreads.com, takes place in one of Hollywood’s most tumultuous eras. Jesse, the daughter of a publicist at the Selznick studio idolizes her father’s most famous charge, Ingrid Bergman. Jesse’s father’s career often clashes with her mother’s devout Catholicism as the Legion of Decency (and a corrupt Bishop) rise in power. Jesse ends up caught in the middle when her father has to deal with Ingrid Bergman’s extramarital affair with director Roberto Rossellini. As Jesse grows into her own, forming her own ideas about the church and their treatment of Ingrid (who was banned from entering the US), a schism opens between Jesse and her parents. Exacerbating this is her father’s worries about the House of Unamerican Activities Committee and the trouble it causes throughout Hollywood.
The book is an interesting look at a period of American history that is often alluded to but rarely discussed. In a time when covering up the past, I feel that it is important to remember those times when we’ve acted less than justly – as a country, as a religion, or as a people. The novel, though, is more an exploration of religion and how we evolve in our beliefs. Dogma is easy when you’re a child. As easy as believing that your favorite film star is the characters they play on the screen. As a fellow Catholic, I found myself comparing my experiences with those of Jesse. They are vastly different. So took the opportunity to explore the many reasons why my experiences have been so different from Jesse’s. And great books are the ones that help you to learn more about yourself and the world in which we live.