Synopses & Reviews
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 worlds 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 Americas 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, Chaplins (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.
"From the bestselling author of Carter Beats the Devil comes an elegant blend of reality and fiction, war drama and Hollywood glamour. Gold sets into motion his cameo-heavy, multipronged plot with a bizarre incident in winter 1916, when Charlie Chaplin is spotted simultaneously in 800 places across the country, causing mass hysteria and panic. The primary story line follows Chaplin's struggles with women, creativity, film budgets and his opposition to the war. In a second, intersecting world, Leland Wheeler moves from the hinterlands to San Francisco with dreams of being a film star. He rechristens himself Leland Duncan, and though he gets shipped to the battlefields of France, the two ailing puppies he finds over there later provide his entre to the movie biz. Finally, Hugo Black is a Detroit gentleman who volunteers for the infantry in an uncharacteristic whim and finds himself fighting in America's secret invasion of Russia. The result is a dramatic narrative of chance and coincidence, and also a serious reconstruction of an evolving social landscape. It is wholly exhausting and entirely satisfying: to borrow an idea from Chaplin's great personal-artistic quest in the book, it's a work as good as Gold." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Gold [is a] masterful storyteller... 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." Donna Seaman, Booklist (starred review)
"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." Junot Díaz
"Gold's tale strains from overreach now and again, but that is the price one pays for such ambition and this is an ambitious, very well-written book full of memorable moments, not least of them starring Rin Tin Tin. Historical but not didactic, in the manner of the master of the genre, E.L. Doctorow, and more completely realized than Gold's debut." Kirkus Reviews
"Gold, a gifted, resourceful writer, juggles all these narrative balls with aplomb, producing the entertainment of a great read along with the you-are-there intimacies of historical fiction." Jeffrey Burke, Bloomberg News
"There are so many dazzling episodes -- in such a wide variety of settings in so many different styles and tones -- that I began to think there was nothing Gold couldn't do." Ron Charles, Washington Post Book World
(read the entire Washington Post Book World review
From the author of the acclaimed best seller Carter Beats the Devil
comes a grand entertainment with the brilliantly realized figure of Charlie Chaplin at its center: a novel at once cinematic and intimate, thrilling and darkly comic, that dramatizes 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 Chaplin is spotted in more than eight hundred places simultaneously, an extraordinary mass delusion. From there, the novel follows the overlapping fortunes of three men: Leland Wheeler, son of the world's last (and worst) Wild West star, as he heads to the battlefields of France; snobbish Hugo Black, drafted to fight under the towering General Edmund Ironside in America's doomed engagement with Russia; and Chaplin himself, as he faces a tightening vice of complications studio moguls, questions about his patriotism, his unchecked heart, and, most menacing of all, his mother to finally make a movie as good as he was.
With a cast of enthralling characters, both historical and fictional Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, a thieving Girl Scout, a lovestruck film theorist, Russian princesses, even Rin Tin Tin Sunnyside is a heartrending, spellbinding novel about American promises both kept and betrayed.
From the author of the acclaimed bestseller Carter Beats the Devil comes a novel that dramatizes the moment when American capitalism, a world at war, and the emerging mecca of Hollywood intersect to spawn an enduring culture of celebrity.
About the Author
Glen David Golds first novel, Carter Beats the Devil, has been translated into fourteen languages. His short stories and essays have appeared in McSweeneys, Playboy, and The New York Times Magazine. He lives in San Francisco with his wife, Alice Sebold.