Book Review: Bells of Avalon by Libbet Bradstreet

Bells of AvalonAbout the Book

Thrust into a limelight she never chose, Katie’s been paired with Danny for as long as she can remember. Films, roadshow tours, and drugstore appearances…post-war Hollywood can’t seem to get enough of the sweetheart team. They’ll even fall in love one day.  But young love seldom survives the fog wake of Los Angeles – a place of dreams and nightmares.

Format: ebook (298 pp)                    Publisher:
Published: 26th July 2015               Genre: Historical Fiction, Historical Romance

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My Review

In my interview with the author last year (which you can read in full here), Libbet confessed, ‘I’ve been obsessed with the glamour of vaudeville and the golden age of Hollywood since I was young.’   In Bells of Avalon, the author certainly creates a convincing sense of the period but what comes to the fore is not so much the glamour as the seedier side of Hollywood.  The reader sees the vulnerability of young actors to exploitation (in spite of their chaperones), the manufactured nature of their personas (voice coaching, cosmetic dentistry) and the limited shelf life of child stars. ‘Those children faded away, one by one, irrelevant casualties of the clunking Hollywood machine.’

The traumatic event in Katie’s childhood revealed early in the book makes her possibly the easiest character to empathise with, even if not all her later decisions seem entirely rational.   Danny is also a troubled character and his relationship with Katie is definitely far removed from that depicted in their films and pedalled by the studios’ publicity teams. ‘None of it was real, of course.  They were told what to do and when to smile.’

The book has frequent changes of timeline and location and, even within a particular time period, characters are often recalling (either in a waking or dreaming state) events from years before.  In addition, key facts about the lives of the characters are revealed, often quite late in the book.  A degree of concentration is therefore required from the reader to keep track of events and sort them into some sort of chronology. I confess that I had to reread some earlier sections to make sense of the story and, even at the end of the book – despite careful reading – there were things I was left unsure about, such as the significance of Katie’s ‘real name’.

Bells of Avalon will appeal to fans of stories set in 1950s and 1960s America and in which ‘boy meets girl’ doesn’t necessarily lead to ‘happily ever after’.

I received a review copy courtesy of the author.

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In three words: Intense, emotional, multi-timeline

Try something similar…Woman Enters Left by Jessica Brockmole (read my review here)

Libbet BradstreetAbout the Author

Libbet Bradstreet is a philanthropy writer currently residing in Austin, Texas. Since 2007, she has served as a fiction judge for the New York-based non-profit NYC Midnight. Her short fiction has been published by Ophelia Street Literary Arts Journal. Bells of Avalon is her debut novel. (Photo credit: Goodreads author page)

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