The Age of Dreaming by Nina Revoyr
Recommended by Cheryl Klein
Over the course of three novels, Nina Revoyr has chronicled girl basketball players, civil unrest in Watts, and now the silent film era: The Age of Dreaming is the story of Jun Nakayama, a Japanese American star of the silents who—when a new part comes his way for the first time in decades—is forced to reflect on the abrupt end of his career. The reasons are as scandalous as an unsolved murder and as subtle as the growing anti-Japanese sentiments he tried to brush off.
The through-line that draws me to Revoyr’s work again and again—besides her insider’s renderings of Los Angeles—is her depiction of characters who are reluctantly shaken out of their passivity. It’s easy enough to write about characters who are brave or even tragic, but it takes serious skill to write about polite, reserved people whose very nature defies the nature of plot.
Over the course of the novel, which flashes between the ’20s and the ’60s, Jun realizes that society doesn’t reward patience and compliance the way he’d hoped, but that he has more control of his own fate than he once thought.
Revoyr’s prose in this novel are like Jun himself: simple but elegant, contemplative and—at first glance—almost dry. But this is all part of a carefully layered character portrait, and the thoroughly juicy mystery at the novel’s center, coupled with descriptions of Hollywood in its giddy adolescence, keep the pages turning.
You can buy The Age of Dreaming of Skylight Books