It was such a pleasure to welcome Julia Roberts to Being Anne with her lovely seventies themed guest post when her latest book, Alice in Theatreland (now available in paperback and for kindle), was on a tour of the blogs. I said at the time that this book looked very “me”, and I was really looking forward to reading it. Well, I certainly wasn’t at all disappointed – and isn’t it just lovely when a book turns out to be exactly what you hoped it would be? With thanks to Julia, I’m also delighted to be able to offer one lucky reader the chance to win a signed paperback copy – you’ll find the entry form after my review.
Beautiful and talented nineteen-year-old, Alice Abbott, arrives in the city with high hopes of one day seeing her name up in lights but first she must impress Richard, the producer of a new West End show, Theatreland.
Alice is befriended at the audition by the more experienced Gina, who, although burdened by her own dark secrets, is determined to protect the newcomer from the sleaze behind the glamour. She also attracts attention from the male lead in the show, Peter, a former pop star struggling to escape his playboy reputation.
Alice’s star seems to be rising as fast as the temperature until she naively accepts an impromptu dinner invitation from Richard. What happened that night? And how far will Richard go to protect his guilty secret?
I already knew I’d like Julia Roberts’ writing – I very much enjoyed Time for a Short Story last year (you’ll find my review here), and was keen to see how she handled a full length novel. Yes, everything I’d enjoyed was there – the settings, the well crafted characters, the deft touch with relationships – but this time I really enjoyed the wonderful story-telling, those moments of joy, sadness and edge-of-the-seat drama that made this book such a great read.
The theatrical backdrop is just perfectly done, drawing on the author’s insider knowledge – the audition process, the understudies and their involvement, the backstage interactions, the whims and prejudices of directors and producers. Alice draws the eye from her first appearance – I loved her relationship with her family (and who, in the seventies, would have travelled without cheese and pickle sandwiches, eh?), and her total joy at finding that the leading man had long been on a poster on her bedroom wall. She’s such a wonderful character, and I loved watching her growing friendship with Gina, her brushes with Ruby, and her changing relationship with Peter. The seventies setting is done just right too – the music, the clothes, and all those little touches of unobtrusive detail that will chime with anyone who lived through those years.
And then there were the different moral standards of the time, and that’s the point when the story turns a little darker, and people turn out not to be bathed in quite the rosy glow that you (and Alice) rather hope they are. The tension filled climax is so well handled, perfectly (and very fast) paced, with the deft interweaving of a few expert false leads and red herrings – I just couldn’t put the book down until I’d read the very last page. In so many ways this book is light and easy to read: in other ways – after it acquires its rather darker edge, and has a more serious theme – it sometimes isn’t. But it’s always so thoroughly enjoyable – very different, and such an excellent read.
Fancy winning a signed paperback copy? Here’s the rafflecopter for entry (UK only):
About the author
Julia Roberts’ passion for writing began when, at the age of ten, after winning second prize in a short story-writing competition, she announced that she wanted to write a book. After a small gap of forty-seven years, and a career in the entertainment industry, Julia finally fulfilled her dream in 2013 when her first book, a memoir entitled One Hundred Lengths of the Pool, was published by Preface Publishing. Two weeks later she had the idea for her first novel, Life’s a Beach and Then…, book one in the Liberty Sands Trilogy, which was released in May 2015.
Julia still works full-time as a Presenter for the TV channel QVC, where she has recently celebrated her twenty-third anniversary. She now lives in Ascot with her partner of thirty-nine years and occasionally one or other of her adult children and their respective cats.