In what currently feels like a lifetime ago, I discovered Nina Revoyr and her wonderful novel about life amongst the super elite in LA, A Student of History. It opened up to me an LA that I had no idea existed and that has fascinated me ever since. Although I hadn’t exactly forgotten Revoyr recently, I suppose that I may have convinced myself that my enjoyment of that novel may have been a lucky one-off. I was completely wrong. Whilst browsing the shelves of my local bookstore, a place in which I really want to spend money at the moment, I chanced across another of her novels The Age of Dreaming. Despite the fact that I have less than zero interest in silent movies, I thought I’d give it a go. In fact I bought it together with The Book of M, which I reviewed last week. Looking back now, I see what odd shelf mates these two novels are.
The Age of Dreaming absolutely didn’t disappoint. It was in fact wonderful, elegant and beautifully written. I feel like Revoyr is a delicious secret that only I know about, although realistically I know that can’t be the case, given how well she writes. The Age of Dreaming, provided exactly what I needed, total escapism from the world around us today.
The novel tells the life story of Jun Nakayama, a Japanese ex-patriot and early star of silent movies. Revoyr picks up her tale in 1964 when Jun is an old man, living quietly in LA. Tracked down by a reporter, who also happens to be a fan of his work, the world of movies once more begins to open up to Jun. The thing is, that there’s a mystery surrounding exactly why Jun stopped making movies and it had nothing to do with the transition to voice. Slowly but surely the story is revealed, and it’s as marvellous as Revoyr’s writing.
As with A Student of History, I read this novel and all along the way I felt that I was learning. Whilst I profess not to be a fan of silent movies, it was fascinating to understand how the industry worked and the inherent racism of America at that time. There’s a gentle love story also at play in this novel and it’s slow paced development seems so wonderfully at odds with writing today. All of this is before you even begin to think about murder, sex and revelation!
I couldn’t tell you which of Revoyr’s books I enjoyed more. Don’t pick either of them up if you are looking for a fast paced rollercoaster of a read. Do so if you want to be thoroughly absorbed and to understand what good, modern fiction can be.