I really wanted to love Mona Simpson’s My Hollywood! The book had been well-reviewed and praised for its use of alternating protagonists: the talented-but-trapped musician composer Claire and her Filipina nanny, Lola.
Alas, I am perhaps too judgmental. Through much of the story, I fervently wished for Claire to grow a spine. Smart, talented, lovely, she is trapped by her husband’s selfishness and her own inability to manage the relationships in her life.
Nanny Lola is similarly “trapped” by circumstances. Wishing to make a better life for her family – husband and children – she works practically around-the-clock as a live-in nanny. Her money goes back to the Philippines to fund the family home and the children’s college tuition.
Truly touching is Lola’s love for William, Claire’s son. She gives up the chance for a new position with a big increase in pay to stay with him. So it is doubly hurtful when, for the feeblest of motivations, Claire fires her. She finds a new position with a very demanding single mother and they forge a bond that is broken without a second thought when the new mother finds a new man.
Is the book truthful? It feels so, yes. It’s very revealing of the characters and they are well-portrayed and interesting.
Did I love the book? No. I thought it was worth reading, but found myself rushing through it. The very best books, for me, pop into my head when I’m not reading them and leave me with a feeling of satisfaction when I turn the last page. The rapprochement between Claire and Lola at the end of My Hollywood felt a bit tacked-on to me. . . Look! We need each other after all.