Book Review: The Starlite Drive-in by Marjorie Reynolds
January 13, 2012 17 Comments
Genre: contemporary / historical fiction (1950s)
I got this book: for review from the publishers, William Morrow Books (HarperCollins)
First Published: 1997 (Paperback edition December 2011)
I read this in: English, the original language
Number of pages: 324
The Starlite Drive-in: What it is about
In the 1990s, the grounds of the old Starlite Drive-in cinema are being dug up in order to build houses. Some human bones are found, and Callie Anne Benton, a woman in her forties who lived in the area when she was a child, thinks she know who they belong to.
The findings bring her back to her childhood. When she was 12 years old, she was living at the Starlite Drive-in cinema, where her father was the projectionist and caretaker. Her mother suffered from agoraphobia and never left the house.
When her father is injured after a fall, a younger man, Charlie Memphis, is hired to help out. Both she and her mother take a liking to him. In fact, Callie Anne dreams of marrying him. But he is wooing her mother, who is being badly treated and taken for granted by her moody husband.
Callie Anne’s life is in turmoil when things come to a head.
The Starlite Drive-in: What I thought
5 stars (out of 5) This is a beautiful account of rural USA in the 1950s. The Formica tables are in place and the soda fountains not far away. Poor Callie Anne is living an isolated life in the summer that Charlie Memphis appears. School’s out and Callie Anne sees her school mates only when they come to see a movie in her father’s drive-in cinema, but they are not real friends of her.
The relationship of Callie Anne’s parents is difficult and this is noticeable for Callie Anne too. She doesn’t like the way her father treats her mother, but there is nothing she can do about it. She hopes to escape with Charlie, but when this doesn’t happen, she dreams of leaving with him and her mother.
I loved this window into the 1950s with its drive-in cinema, the quiet life, the father as head of the household who had to be obeyed, and also, Callie Anne’s first broken heart AND her first love.
The book is written solely from the perspective of Callie Anne, so that some things remain unclear until they are revealed at the end. It’s great fiction that will appeal especially to women.