I’ve started Sunnyside by Glen David Gold. Although it comes highly recommended from a good friend, I wasn’t entirely sold initially. I know the book is about Charlie Chaplin, and I know that this particular friend loves Charlie Chaplin, so I wasn’t sure if his love of the book came from his Chaplin idolatry or the book’s actual merits. Then, I read a review on GoodReads comparing the book to The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon, and I was sold. If you haven’t read Kavalier and Clay, stop what you’re doing, go to Barnes and Noble or Borders or your local book store and buy it. Then, read it. Because you will love it.
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay is the story of two cousins, Sammy Clay and Josef Kavalier who write comic books. Whenever anyone asks me WHY I loved Kavalier and Clay so much (as my short-lived WWII book club did), I don’t have a good answer. The characters? The writing? I’ve never been able to pin it down, but I’m already noticing a few similarities in Sunnyside, and I think they have a lot to do with both books’ appeal.
–Both books are set (at least as far as I can tell so far) in the beginning of the last century. Kavalier and Clay is set at the beginning of WWII and Sunnyside begins just before America enters WWI. I like historical fiction, and many of my favorites take place between or during these two wars (Atonement, The Blind Assassin, Hemingway). Books set in the early 20th century give me historical fiction in an easily understood context. I know a lot about the time period, and it’s easy for me to place the events in context.
–Both books involve real-life historical figures interacting with fictional (or fictionalized) characters. Kavalier and Clay features a cameo by Salvador Dali and references Houdini. Sunnyside is (thus far) about Charlie Chaplin. Two of the best books I’ve read in the past few years, The Lacuna and Loving Frank both involve real people (Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera and Leon Trotsky and Frank Lloyd Wright respectively). I’m not really sure right now why I like this so much, but I do.
So I have high hopes for Sunnyside. I’m only about 50 pages in (out of 650!!), but I’m finding it pretty compelling so far. So thanks, Georg, for the suggestion.