By Ekta R. Garg
March 8, 2017
Genre: Women’s fiction
Rated: Bypass it / 2 stars
The daughter of a Hollywood publicist gets a front row seat to some of the most glamorous and most sordid real-life tales coming out of the movie business. When her movie star idol makes a very public personal choice, the girl must deal with the gap between onscreen fantasies and the harshness of real life. Author Kate Alcott delves into life behind the scenes of the golden age of Hollywood in the somewhat promising but ultimately disappointing novel The Hollywood Daughter.
Jessica “Jesse” Malloy gets to hear about the lives of Hollywood stars from a primary source: her father, a publicist for the Selznick Studios. In particular, Jesse loves the fact that her father represents Ingrid Bergman. No one else, Jesse believes, exemplifies a wholesome American woman. Ingrid is perfection personified.
Her adulation of Ingrid Bergman comes with its challenges, however, the biggest being that Jesse’s mother doesn’t approve. A devout Catholic, Jesse’s mother finds herself the sole dissenter in the Malloy household. She battles her conscience on a daily basis; while she enjoys the money and social prestige her husband’s job brings, she finds it difficult to justify what the Catholic church calls objectionable content.
Jesse does her best to ignore her mother’s concerns, but her mother insists on sending her to an all girls’ Catholic school run by nuns. Despite her initial misgivings, Jesse begins to enjoy her time at the school and meets Kathleen. The two become fast friends, gushing over everything…including the movie stars. Finally, for Jesse everything seems to come together. A new best friend and a courtside view to her favorite actress’s life. What more could a girl want?
When news breaks about Ingrid Bergman’s extramarital affair and impending pregnancy, however, Jesse’s world flips upside down. Everything she thought she knew about her idol shatters. Jesse’s father decides to fly to Italy to meet Ingrid and try to persuade her in person to come home, and at the last minute Jesse tags along. They do their best to plead their case, but Ingrid doesn’t want to come home. Jesse comes back to the States brokenhearted. Her idol isn’t so perfect after all, and her entire perspective changes forever.
Author Kate Alcott creates some charming moments in The Hollywood Daughter. Jesse’s adoration of Ingrid Bergman ring true, and readers will get a realistic glimpse into life in the movie industry’s heyday. Interesting, too, are the facts about the Catholic church’s level of involvement and influence in Hollywood during that time period.
Unfortunately the charming moments don’t carry the book. What starts as an interesting examination of a heartbroken fan turns into a lackluster story. Alcott devotes the majority of the book to the flashback that details Jesse’s first interactions with Ingrid and Ingrid’s downfall. By the time the flashback ends, readers will most likely forget where the original story arc began.
The story loses even more steam from there. Kathleen joins the story in real time, but the frame story for the flashback weakens the plot’s impact. Jesse’s mother, a main driving force in Jesse’s childhood, disappears from her life and the book after the flashback. While the idea of Jesse questioning her faith works in theory, in practice it doesn’t really do much for the book overall.
In the end the elements in The Hollywood Daughter don’t coalesce. Readers will probably want to Bypass the book.