The Great Pretenders by Laura Kalpakian is a fictional novel with a lot of action. Set in California during the McCarthy era, its main character Roxanne goes against many 1950’s conventions by opening her own agency for aspiring Hollywood screenwriters. However, many talented writers are in hiding after being shunned as Communists during the Red Scare. Roxanne hatches a plot to use other writers who aren’t shunned to front for those who remain in hiding by submitting scripts to the studios with the hope that she can aid the good writers from the past as well as the ones acting as fronts.
In the process of her subterfuge, she meets and fall in love with an African-American reporter who becomes involved in the fight for civil rights being played out in Alabama. Obviously, her bi-racial Love relationship goes against 1950’s social morays, and troubles ensue.
There’s definitely a lot of rules being broken and secrets being kept in this novel; in my opinion, too many. I thought the communist scare was plenty by itself. The addition of the race riots as a bit too much for me and I questioned whether a privileged girl raised in Hollywood by studio moguls would have taken the actions Roxanne did. I had difficulty buying the dual storyline. It’s not a bad novel, but it made me feel as if the author was overzealous in her desire to correlate communism with prejudice in the South. The main character’s upbringing didn’t jive with her actions.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. However, recent personal health issues required me to listen to the audiobook instead. It drove me nuts that the reader repeatedly mispronounced the word “picture”! She kept saying pitcher! I’m surprised and disappointed no one caught that error because the word picture was so often used.
I regret to say this novel has a message, but it didn’t come across for me.