STARRED REVIEW
October 2015

A true Hollywood story

By Alex Brunkhorst
Review by
The seedy, soap opera-tinged underbelly of Hollywood is fertile ground for fiction. Los Angeles resident Alex Brunkhorst makes the most of that setting in her second novel, the suspenseful and romantic The Gilded Life of Matilda Duplaine. It’s the star-crossed story of two lives that are wildly different yet forever intertwined.
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BookPage Fiction Top Pick, October 2015

The seedy, soap opera-tinged underbelly of Hollywood is fertile ground for fiction. Los Angeles resident Alex Brunkhorst makes the most of that setting in her second novel, the suspenseful and romantic The Gilded Life of Matilda Duplaine. It’s the star-crossed story of two lives that are wildly different yet forever intertwined.

Thomas Cleary is a journalist who’s never lived the high life. He comes from the working class, and despite being surrounded by the Hollywood elite, he’s never really mingled with them. That all changes when he’s assigned to write an obituary for a Hollywood mogul, which leads him to Matilda Duplaine. Matilda is beautiful, charming and instantly memorable, but she’s also a mystery, a young woman who has never left the grounds of the estate where she grew up. As Thomas’ fascination with Matilda deepens, he yearns to show her the outside world, even as he comes to discover that her very existence contains a secret that will shake both of their lives.

Thomas’ narration lends the story personality, sensitivity and wit. We see the alien world of Hollywood’s richest through an outsider’s eyes, giving the novel a vicarious appeal. And Brunkhorst, who has worked as a luxury real estate agent in California, knows that glittering world well enough to make it feel real to readers. Matilda is a fascinating character, full of Golden Age Hollywood affectations and eccentricities that stem from her life in exile, but we see her only through Thomas, who first mythologizes her, then strips her down to who she really is, odd upbringing and all. This creates an interesting dual perspective and a sense that we’re watching not one, but two people slowly come to grips with reality. When that reality finally hits, it’s shattering.

The Gilded Life of Matilda Duplaine is a fascinating, bittersweet journey into the heart of modern-day Hollywood—the perfect treat for readers who love both doomed romances and Tinseltown fables.

 

This article was originally published in the October 2015 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

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