Mira, April 26, 2016.
This novel is being called a “modern day Gatsby tale,” and I can see how it has been inspired by Fitzgerald, mostly in tone. The story has old-fashioned sensibilities, reminiscent of Gatsby’s extravagant parties and lavish home, although the setting here is present day Bel Air. It also features a main character who enters into a wealthy world and falls in love with a woman well above his social status – and ends in heartbreak (this isn’t a spoiler, we are told from the start that the love affair doesn’t end well).
Thomas is a New York journalist who has been given a second chance in L.A. One of his first assignments is to write an obituary of a legendary film producer Joel Goldman, and he meets with Joel’s daughter Lily to get a quote for the newspaper. Lily takes an instant shine to Thomas, and introduces him to her lifestyle of the rich and famous. As he becomes close to her tight-knit group of celebrity friends, Thomas finds himself the recipient of all the best entertainment stories, rapidly advancing his career.
In awe of Lily’s exclusive world of elite socialites, Thomas feels that he has finally redeemed himself for the mistakes he made in New York. Everything is going well for him, until the evening he confuses the address of a party and ends up at the Bel Air home of producer David Duplaine. The rest of the group is at the beach house party, but there is one person at home on the estate: David’s daughter, Matilda. The twenty-year-old girl has lived a secluded life – she has had every need and desire provided for, although she has never left her father’s gated estate. Upon meeting Thomas, Matilda realizes the true price of wealth and privilege – she has missed out on the experiences of real life.
Thomas and Matilda embark on a secret, forbidden affair – until David finds out. His past, and therefore Matilda’s whole life, have been filled with secrets, mistakes and regrets. As a journalist, Thomas is desperate to put together the pieces of Matilda’s history; but as her boyfriend, he is compelled to respect her privacy. The conflict between career and personal life prove to be his undoing.
The mysteries of the storyline held my interest throughout – the novel is an easy, light read, but it is necessary to suspend disbelief to really enjoy the plot. Filled with exotic locations, luxurious homes and rich, bored, entitled people, The Gilded Life of Matilda Duplaine reads like a fairytale with a twist. Matilda is a damsel in distress, but she doesn’t need rescuing – she needs to be set free to live her own life.
This is an unusual, almost nostalgic novel. At some points, I felt it would have been better had it actually been set in the 1920s, but the contrasts between Matilda and Thomas are more glaring in the present day. The tone of the novel, with its hint of mystery, is actually a really nice change from all the dark, psychological thrillers that are being published right now. Even though most of it is predictable, it is a nice, escapist read for the summer.
I received this novel from Mira and Goodreads First Reads in exchange for an honest review.