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Living in a Star's Light: A novel based on the life of Miss Lotta Crabtree Paperback – August 1, 2019
"Devoted" by Dean Koontz
For the first time in paperback, from Dean Koontz, the master of suspense, comes an epic thriller about a terrifying killer and the singular compassion it will take to defeat him. | Learn more
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- Item Weight : 11.5 ounces
- Paperback : 242 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0578554828
- ISBN-13 : 978-0578554822
- Product Dimensions : 6 x 0.51 x 9 inches
- Publisher : Steve Lindahl (August 1, 2019)
- Language: : English
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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The star-rating here is based solely on the assumption that, having read the book description and the other reviews, you know exactly what you are getting and you want to read this type of story. If this book is your topical bulls-eye, Mr. Lindahl’s prose will wrap you in a comfortable wool blanket and carry you along on a tranquil riverboat cruise from Lotta’s six-year-old clog-dancing performances in the gold-mining camps of central California to her acclaimed national tour of major cities and theaters, to her retirement and retreat to her lakeside mansion.
The problem, for readers who are looking for more than that, is that the fictional characters the author has created, who are really the focus of the story, drift through the book with the same tranquil pace and the same lack of adventure, peril, romance, or intrigue as Lotta. The pace is very leisurely, with extensive description of details that are beautiful but not relevant to any plot or character development. That would be fine if there were occasional meaningful incidents. Unfortunately, those are mostly lacking.
One example will help here. This is not a spoiler of any kind. At one point mid-way, Walter, the most prominent character, and Tabby, Lotta’s good friend and Walter’s love interest, are on tour with Lotta. Also along are Lotta’s mother and her mostly estranged alcoholic father, John. The mother, who is Lotta’s manager and protector, wakes Walter around midnight and tells him that John has stolen the proceeds from that week’s performances and has disappeared. Walter (sixteen years old at the time), heads out into the streets of Cincinnati to hunt for Walter. He presumes that John would be at the nearest saloon. Walter wanders the streets, down dark alleys and next to an eerie black park area. He’s worried about what would happen if he met some marauders. He finds a saloon, in which he sees some young prostitutes, who might tempt him to be unfaithful to Tabby. He leaves the saloon. He doesn’t find Walter. He returns to the hotel without incident. End of scene. Mr. Lindahl describes all of this in well-written prose – but nothing really happens. Rather than spinning a story about Walter getting into trouble, having to escape from robbers (or getting beaten by robbers, creating sympathy since he would be injured because of the treachery of Lotta’s father), or being significantly tempted to be unfaithful to Tabby, the scene has no suspense --aside from our anticipation that something might actually happen. It also has no particular point or relevance to Lotta’s story, or Walter’s story. If Walter didn’t find John, and nothing of any significance happens during his search – why narrate it in such detail? Much of the book falls into this pattern; beautifully written vignettes that lack tension or significance.
The characters here enjoy relative success, safety, health, and reasonable happiness. Walter and Tabby at times struggle with their jealousy of Lotta’s money, but they are her friends and they always come around to supporting her. They lament at Lotta’s lack of a husband (over and over), and they spend the second half of the book (after they are married) trying to find her a husband. But that’s not enough tension to make the book a gripping read unless you are focused on Lotta’s story and enjoying the period-specific descriptions.
In the end, the author’s fealty to the historical accuracy of Lotta’s life story causes him to be a bit too conservative about how much fiction he’s willing to add to the narrative. It’s a nice, relaxing read, but lacks the excitement or romance of a pure fiction novel. But, as noted above, if this specific genre and this kind of comfortable walk down the historical lane is what you’re looking for, then this is a fine place to find it.
Living in a Star’s Light is well written, something I’ve come to expect from author Steve Lindahl. You ease into the part of Walter and through his eyes, come to gain a bit of perspective on 1800s Americana. It’s a time when the man of the house is the bread-winner, yet Lotta was one of the most highly paid and successful actresses of her era. It’s a time when success in the theater is defined by New York and Europe, but Lotta showed that the United States Midwest and West could also have a say. And it’s a time when women recognize the inequalities they’ve been handed and some decry it, including Lotta’s mother. Lotta’s world is one of old-fashion notions, risque ventures, tireless energy, and values ahead of her time.
If there is a limitation to the book, it’s pace. The easy-going progression of the tale can make it feel slow in places. This is perhaps most true when Lotta’s posse is concerned about her lack of a love life. Their lament undoubtedly fits the time period, but it’s repeated a bit too frequently. And frankly, Lotta’s life (other than some misadventures of her brothers) was largely one of privilege, not disaster, especially after the early years. If you’re looking for an adrenaline rush, this book’s not for you. But if life has already stimulated you enough, lean back with this relaxing look to the past.
Overall, if you like historical fiction, you’ll enjoy learning a bit more about this amazing woman and the world of her time in Living in a Star’s Light.
Top reviews from other countries
The book was engaging and written as a fiction book. It was set in the gold rush days in America. It was a little slow in places but I’m glad I gave this book a chance. The characters were roundly drawn and the book had that quality where you just HAD to keep reading. It showed how Crabtree was before her time, but not the diva of the stars from today.
She was, in short, a wonderful woman and I thank the author for bringing her to my attention.