Summary and book reviews of Sunnyside by Glen David Gold

Sunnyside

A Novel

By Glen David Gold

Sunnyside
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  • Hardcover: May 2009,
    576 pages.
    Paperback: May 2010,
    704 pages.

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Book Summary

Glen David Gold, author of the best seller Carter Beats the Devil, now gives us a grand entertainment with the brilliantly realized figure of Charlie Chaplin at its center: a novel at once cinematic and intimate, heartrending and darkly comic, that captures the moment when American capitalism, a world at war, and the emerging mecca of Hollywood intersect to spawn an enduring culture of celebrity.

Sunnyside
opens on a winter day in 1916 during which Charlie Chaplin is spotted in more than eight hundred places simultaneously, an extraordinary delusion that forever binds the overlapping fortunes of three men: Leland Wheeler, son of the world's last (and worst) Wild West star, as he finds unexpected love on the battlefields of France; Hugo Black, drafted to fight under the towering General Edmund Ironside in America's doomed expedition against the Bolsheviks; and Chaplin himself, as he faces a tightening vise of complications - studio moguls, questions about his patriotism, his unchecked heart, and, most menacing of all, his mother.

The narrative is as rich and expansive as the ground it covers, and it is cast with a dazzling roster of both real and fictional characters: Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Adolph Zukor, Chaplin's (first) child bride, a thieving Girl Scout, the secretary of the treasury, a lovesick film theorist, three Russian princesses (gracious, nervous, and nihilist), a crew of fly-by-the-seat-of-their-pants moviemakers, legions of starstruck fans, and Rin Tin Tin.

By turns lighthearted and profound, Sunnyside is an altogether spellbinding novel about dreams, ambition, and the dawn of the modern age.

Excerpt
Sunnyside

At its northernmost limit, the California coastline suffered a winter of brutal winds pitched against iron- clad fog, and roiling seas whose whiplash could scar a man’s cheek as quickly as a cat- o’- nine- tails. Since the Gold Rush, mariners had run aground, and those who survived the splintering impact were often pulped when the tides tore them across the terrible strata of the volcanic landscape. For protection, the State had erected ascore of lighthouses staffed with teams of three or four families who rotated duties that lasted into the day and into the night. The changing of the guard, as it were, was especially treacherous in some locations, such as Crescent City, accessible only by a tombolo that was flooded in high tide, or Point Bonita, whose wooden walkway, even after the mildest storm, tended to faint dead away from the loose soil of its mountaintop and tumble into the sea.

Until the advent of navigational radio, communication with the mainland ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse

A bold and engrossing tale that offers the reader an excellent sketch of a nascent Hollywood, its venerated star, and the harrowing events of the world surrounding them. Sunnyside is a refreshing look at a pivotal moment in our history, one that has shaped, in large part, our love of film, our role on the world's stage, and our enduring culture of celebrity.   (Reviewed by Derek Brown).

Full Review Members Only (1213 words).

Media Reviews
Author Blurb Junot Díaz
A breathless stupendous novel that recreates both a young brash America on the verge of becoming itself, and Chaplin, one of its most bewitching quixotic citizens. From lighthouse to Hollywood to starlets to war to stardom to madness to genius Gold's startling narrative carries us across the world and back. Gold proves himself yet again to be the hungriest craftiest funniest and most humane novelist we have.

Kirkus Reviews

Historical but not didactic, in the manner of the master of the genre, E.L. Doctorow, and more completely realized than Gold's debut.

Booklist

Starred Review. The cascade of historic details Gold generates is breathtaking, but it is his electrifying characters, wildly inventive action replete with comedic mishaps and witty dialogue, and trenchant insights into the absurdity of war and the mythic dimension of movies that gather force and velocity to make this such a hilarious, brilliant, and transporting novel.

Library Journal

Starred Review. Gold has written another joyous comic novel that blends fact and fiction to the point where you won't really care what's true and what's not.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. An elegant blend of reality and fiction, war drama and Hollywood glamour ... Entirely satisfying: to borrow an idea from Chaplin’s great personal-artistic quest in the book, it’s a work as good as Gold.

San Francisco Chronicle

Sunnyside pops and crackles with cleverness... but it's also a bit ramshackle. Gold is a wizard at making things up and mixing them in with things not made up. But sometimes the mixture is unstable.

Entertainment Weekly

Gold is a masterful, even heart-stopping storyteller, but not, alas, an equally amazing writer.

Los Angeles Times

Sunnyside feels, at times, like Dickensian streaky bacon, a bit of a baggy monster. But it has, too, those wonderful Dickensian qualities, namely, the capacity to startle, to thrill, to evoke laughter and, ultimately, to bring tears to the eyes. No reader who sticks for the ride is going to forget it.

The Washington Post

Sunnyside offers a wealth of wit and pathos and insight, and who better to guide us through this transformational moment in history than the Little Tramp?

Christian Science Monitor

Sunnyside definitely suffers from overabundance. But it’s full of intelligence, ambition, and generosity – and there aren’t too many novels that are so stuffed with those that they bulge at the seams.

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Beyond the Book

Charlie Chaplin & Sunnyside
Not a whole lot is said about silent films these days. The Age of the Silver Screen seems to be as antiquated as the subject matter of many of its films: the original Ben-Hur and The Ten Commandments, Intolerance, and Birth of a Nation to name a few. The reputed masters of the form could be counted on one hand, and actors and actresses seemed to be re-cast over and over from film to film. But as with any fledgling art form there were great advances and boundless creativity, much of which set the stage for today's blockbusters. One such innovator was Charles Spencer Chaplin Jr.

Charlie Chaplin was an artist whose perfectionism and eccentricities have left us artifacts of the form that are nothing less ...

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