West of Sunset

West of Sunset

3.46 (32 ratings by Goodreads)
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Set amidst the gaudy wastes of Los Angeles, this is a savage, funny and romantic story about the power of Hugo Arlington, a celebrated writer, to destroy people, even from beyond the grave.show more

Product details

  • Paperback | 256 pages
  • 110 x 180 x 18mm | 181.44g
  • Penguin Books Ltd
  • London, United Kingdom
  • New edition
  • 0140069771
  • 9780140069778

Review Text

Bogarde's petulant loathing for America, which surfaced unpleasantly in his more recent (less appealing) memoirs, is the dominant chord in this feeble third novel: a limp casserole of crude satire, precious romance, and moist melodrama. Jonathan Poole, bestselling English novelist, comes to Hollywood in January 1981 (the Reagan inauguration is made much of) to discuss a screenplay adaptation with Andrew Shapiro of Cristal Productions - a dated cartoon-mogul, a la Mayer/Goldwyn/Levine, who is vulgar, swinish, and cruel. So 40-ish Jonathan concentrates instead on his love-life: he re-encounters old flame Alice Arlington, now widowed, and realizes he's free of his Alice-obsession at last; he falls in love at first sight with 30-year-old English child-psychologist Lea, who's in the US with her adoptive father Geoffrey Nettles, a visiting professor. And while the Jonathan/Lea romance, one of the least convincing heterosexual courtships in recent fiction, mews along, Bogarde offers a clumsy array of subplots, flashbacks, and supporting-cast vignettes. Alice, dealing with two young daughters (one cloyingly precocious) and a live-in filmmaker/lover, tries to get over her undying love for dead husband Hugo: he was a beautiful, celebrated English poet who - with fetid echoes of Suddenly, Last Summer - sank into L.A. decadence, embracing cocaine, S&M, and black-girl orgies. (As recalled by one of the dreadful-stereotype blacks here: "He tied up there, in that old room, like a sack of mail, the girls kickin' him, the studs pissin' on him, and he screaming for mercy.") Professor Nettles recalls how he adopted orphan Lea at age ten - finding real love for the first time, abandoning his previous gay sex-life with "rough trade." And, most irrelevantly, there's a subplot about two octogenarian White Russian emigrees, mistress and servant, with their old-country memories; the mistress, once the hostess of a great L.A.-emigre salon, is also an occasional Soviet spy, now cast aside to die in quasi-squalor. Bogarde's movie-biz/California satire is uncommonly tired - especially when compared with a savvy novel like Josh Greenfeld's The Return of Mister Hollywood (p. 156). His attempts at American slang are often laughable, as when a spacey musician uses the Englishism "fooling about" to describe a jam session. Hopelessly dated references (a New Haven try-out for a B'way musical!) abound - as do cliches of character and dialogue. In sum: a heavyhanded attack on "shmucky" Los Angeles, a breathy mess of a novel - and a sad comedown after the sturdy A Gentle Occupation and the bright (if campy) Voices in the Garden. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

Rating details

32 ratings
3.46 out of 5 stars
5 19% (6)
4 28% (9)
3 38% (12)
2 12% (4)
1 3% (1)
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