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Sunnyside

3.35 of 5 stars 3.35  ·  rating details  ·  951 ratings  ·  202 reviews
Glen David Gold, author of the best seller Carter Beats the Devil, now gives us a grand entertainment with the brilliantly realized figure of Charlie Chaplin at its center: a novel at once cinematic and intimate, heartrending and darkly comic, that captures the moment when American capitalism, a world at war, and the emerging mecca of Hollywood intersect to spawn an enduri ...more
Hardcover, 559 pages
Published May 5th 2009 by Knopf (first published 2009)
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Catching Fire by Suzanne CollinsThe Help by Kathryn StockettCity of Glass by Cassandra ClareAn Echo in the Bone by Diana GabaldonBlood Promise by Richelle Mead
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395th out of 1,367 books — 6,725 voters
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57th out of 139 books — 52 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,137)
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Patrick O'Duffy
Glen David Gold's first novel, Carter Beats the Devil, was a decent enough book that didn't quite manage to live up to its potential, and suffered because it came out at roughly the same time as Michael Chabon's far superior Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, against which the flaws of Gold's work became even more apparent. But his second novel, Sunnyside, is leaps and bounds ahead of Carter, a brilliant and emotionally genuine book that explores pain, sacrifice, war and the birth pangs of ...more
Charles Matthews
Sunnyside pops and crackles with cleverness. Which probably won't surprise anyone who read Glen David Gold's debut novel, Carter Beats the Devil. Like that novel, Sunnyside is rooted in the popular culture of the American past – the earlier book in the heyday of vaudeville, the new one in the formative days of the American film industry.

The central character in Sunnyside is Charlie Chaplin, whom we first see (or think we see) on November 12, 1916, in a boat off the Northern California coast, bei
...more
Margaret
Wow. I wanted to like this. I really enjoyed "Carter Beats the Devil," Gold's first book. So I was excited for this one. But I just couldn't get into it, and gave up a few chapters in.

Gold weaves in millions of period details and facts, and characters, which is great. But the writing is just so dense, and he seems to have a deep antipathy to clearly identifying *which* of the myriad characters is speaking, or thinking, or being discussed. I kept flipping back and forth going "Wait, what? who is
...more
Ron
Jun 09, 2010 Ron rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Ishmael Reed or Bruce Wagner fans
I just love this book to pieces. It's smart, it's funny, it isn't afraid to let you fill in dots yourself as Gold explores Charlie Chaplin's role as the world's first global celebrity... but also how others, both famous and ordinary, make their way through the absurd world the rise of Hollywood and the ossification of European politics created. I really did laugh and cry in fairly equal measure. (I'm a sucker for dog stories, and this novel has a beaut.)
Jeffrey
Like "Carter Beats The Devil", this book is good fun, and full of human moments. It's also really funny. My words can't do it justice, so I'll just highly recommend it to anyone looking for an emotionally resonant but very entertaining read.
Jessica
Forced and disjointed. The storylines for Leland, Hugo and the Golod clan were forced on the reader. And the very few parts with Chaplin were way too disjointed.

I'm still struggling with why the characters above were included. Was it to show how the non-Hollywood folk lived? Was it an attempt to give depth to an otherwise bland story? Or was it simply, as is my belief, an attempt to add substance to a thin plot?

I struggled mightily with every character introduced (with the exception of Nanette a
...more
Lindz
Jul 16, 2009 Lindz rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in Chaplin and who can handle no plot with really good writing.
Recommended to Lindz by: Saw it in bookstore
In many ways this is a really good novel. It is really well written, metaphores are sometimes inspired. Images flow off the page like oil paint onto a canvas. The characters are interesting and generally do keep the pace going. Gold has a real affection for Charlie Chaplin, and the loving farce of the invasion of Russia is great until the tragedy of the ending, not ending in a marriage but death, as predicted by Chaplin himself. Though I have a feeling Gold tired of his Leeland Wheeler character ...more
Jana Perskie
Apr 26, 2009 Jana Perskie rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: ABSOLUTELY NO ONE!!
Shelves: literary-fiction
I received an ARC for "Sunnyside," and expected big things since the author had a bestseller with his first novel, ""Carter Beats The Devil." I was taken in, as were/are many readers by all the hype surrounding "Sunnyside's" publication. It does not make for a good read. I was determined to finish it, however, despite the book's 555 pages. Yes, I had to skim over parts - but I didn't skip anything, hoping for a page or two or ten, which would bring the narrative together. I wanted to post an hon ...more
Judy
Aug 24, 2010 Judy rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone

The production of illusion, the competitive spirit of creative people, the magnetic appeal of the truly adept; these are the themes of David Glen Gold and also his techniques as a writer. Carter Beats the Devil, his amazing first novel, was about a magician. Sunnyside takes us into the early world of motion pictures through Charlie Chaplin.

It is a long novel and in my opinion it is as long as it needs to be, though some critics disagreed. Gold takes a good 75 pages to get it all going. The three
...more
Graceann
Jan 27, 2010 Graceann rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: hard-core Glen David Gold Fans only
I love Glen David Gold. I love him as a witty, personable man, and as a witty, engaging author. I adored CARTER BEATS THE DEVIL and found it to be lush and intricate, with numerous plot points that somehow, "magically" reunite for a satisfying novel. Perhaps it was wrong for me to set such a high standard for SUNNYSIDE, but I know what Gold can do at his best, and I waited a long time for this novel. When I heard that it was based (at least in part) on an era I love - that of Hollywood in the si ...more
Emma (Miss Print)
When I had a chance to snag an advanced copy of Sunnyside (2009) by Glen David Gold, I was really excited because Gold's first novel Carter Beats the Devil had piqued my interest and was already on my list of books to read. Having tried reading Sunnyside, it will have to stay on that list a bit longer before I decide if I will actually be reading it.

To say I was daunted when I realized that this book was 550 pages long would be an understatement. Given the massive length of the book I expected,
...more
jordan

What is one to make of Glen David Gold’s second act, “Sunnyside,” which comes more than seven years after his much praised first novel, “Carter Beats the Devil”? As with Carter, Gold again demonstrates his extraordinary gifts – characterization, humor, and perfectly metered prose, as well as exceptional research – are not for this author tricks but sheer magic. Yet where Carter followed a story that was linear and easily deciphered, “Sunnyside” follows not one track but several. And if like most
...more
Alan
The massive scope of this book begins with a day in 1916 where hundreds of Chaplins are simultaneously imagined around the world. It focuses on the other two main characters witnessing this bizarre event, a lighthouse keeper with Hollywood dreams and a brash young Texan, both of which will end up in the middle of World War One. Gold brilliantly blends fact and fiction (and as a film historian, I can attest to a lot of the early Hollywood stuff) to a point where the reader vicariously experiences ...more
Leah
I don't know what to say about this book! In general I love Glen David Gold, I think he's a wonderful writer and I love his attention to historical detail - I feel like I learn so much from him and I really enjoy that. However, I didn't feel entertained with this book as much as I did with Carter Beats the Devil. This book was engrossing, but also kind of depressing - I felt like it had a sort of downer overall message and there was a lot of WWI stuff and sad animal stuff and those were both har ...more
Neil
It's pretty rare for me to give up on a book but after 300+ pages and a couple of weeks of convincing myself that the author has a story to tell, this goes back on the shelf. A complete mess. The guy can write, but what is the point if he has no story to tell? Wafer thin characters, unrelated events and a complete lack of cohesion in the narrative meant every time I picked it up it was a chore. Gold's debut, Carter Beats the Devil, is one of my favourite books but this will rapidly find its way ...more
Kiersten Lawson
I waited a long time for this after loving "Carter Beats the Devil" and hearing Gold read an excerpt from his working draft at the first Wordstock. This lovely romp through early 20th century Hollywood to the front lines of WWI and back met every expectation I had of it. His wife Alice Sebald has received more commercial attention, but Gold's prose to me is enchantment.
Valerie
I really tried to like this book, but I just couldn't, for two main reasons:

1) I had great difficulty relating to the characters. While their depictions described them sufficiently to provide a decent picture of them, they did not in any way enable me to feel anything for them. And some of the characters' stories seemed to have absolutely no relevance to the central story of the book. Just a way to fill pages. I was particularly lost in the entire Russian story, with no compassion whatsoever for
...more
Jeff
Got the audio of this book from the library. Its an historical fiction novel about the end of WWI and Charlie Chaplin's exploits in Hollywood during the early days of the studio system. Its a "point in time" type of story where the reader is presented with characters and stories that are kinda already in progress. The story consists of 3 loosely connected story lines; Charlie, where he is working on his film Sunnyside, a wannabe actor who gets sent to France in 1918 and another man sent to fight ...more
Daniel
Unlike a lot of people, I wasn't a fan of CARTER BEATS THE DEVIL, so I was reluctant to pick up SUNNYSIDE even though it is otherwise up my alley. The book primarily follows three characters: Charlie Chaplin, dealing with the alienation of celebrity while trying to find the project that would be worthy of his great talents; Hugo Black, a snobby engineer's son who finds himself in the Allied Expeditionary Force in Archangel during the Russian Revolution; and Lee Wheeler, a young man looking to be ...more
Amalia
Jun 14, 2009 Amalia rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: If you liked The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
I actually need a new shelf for, "Wow. I couldn't finish this."
I wanted to like Sunnyside, largely because I enjoyed Gold's use of language. His writing style is engaging and a pleasure to read.

That said, after much deliberation I reached a decision to NOT finish Sunnyside, currently being on page 350-ish. It is very much unlike me to give up on a book, but I've decided to do precisely that. The stories are so scattershot, linked only by minor happenstances, that they are quite frustrating to fo
...more
Kay
Sep 05, 2011 Kay rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: fiction
Another great book by Glen David Gold. If you're a fan of early moviemaking (like me) you probably won't have to be told twice to read this book. But even if you've never heard of Frances Marion, Zasu Pitts or Mary Pickford there's plenty here to keep you interested: a great cast of characters, the whole of World War I (French, Russian and home fronts) and plenty of dogs. What more could you want?

This book gets off to kind of a slow start but is well worth the wait. The incident of the 800 Chap
...more
Chris
In short: Amazing, but recommended cautiously.

How does he do it? Gold's book is a masterpiece, delivering an incredibly deep experience in humanity that ranges from the front lines of World War One to a barely-formed Hollywood to the private tragedies and comedies of life. The line between tragedy and comedy is ambiguous throughout, and I do not know which the book is. Perhaps that's the point--that life is never simply one or the other. His characters are even deeper and more complex than the e
...more
Rebecca
It took me a long, long time to finish the book. I read others in the interim and returned to it. As a Powell's Indie-spensible choice, I knew it was great work but, I struggled with it. Sunnyside didn't actually go anywhere so much as paint a portrait of the time.

To repeat what many other reviewers have said better:

The writing? The detail, the prose, the magnificent imagination with people, words, actions, and stories? All fantastic.

The constant varying between character strains that never int
...more
James Murphy
Sunnyside has 3 story lines: Charlie Chaplin and the making of a film called Sunnyside, a soldier on the Western Front during WWI, and a soldier who's part of the Allied intervention at Archangel following the Russian Revolution. The thread holding these 3 seemingly disparate parts together is Hollywood and the beginnings of celebrity culture. We're reminded more than once that California became the center of the film industry because Europe was at war during the industry's adolescence and becau ...more
Ron Charles
Glen David Gold's new novel takes its title and perhaps too much of its spirit from Charlie Chaplin's weirdest movie, a rare financial flop called "Sunnyside." At just 34 minutes long, the 1919 film cobbled together several incongruous scenes, including some classic slapstick, a surreal dance with wood nymphs, a violent suicide and a baffling happy ending. Having already made more than 60 movies before he was 30, the Little Tramp could take a pass for this creative misstep, but Gold sees the fil ...more
Jake
I'm not certain that any book could have lived up to the expectations I had following Gold's first book, Carter Beats the Devil, but all the same I found myself losing patience and hoping for Carter's clever connections satisfying finish. Sunnyside is something of a disjointed mess, and it is likely that that is precisely what Gold was aiming for. I didn't find the three main characters particularly interesting or relatable (least of all Chaplin himself) but every dozen or so pages Gold would in ...more
Ben
A very good book that falls short of greatness, but not for lack of trying.

It doesn't get much more ambitious than this until you start talking about the all-time great novels. But ambition and success are not synonymous. Gold is a very good writer, but he's at his worst when he tries his hardest to entertain. This book's most successful moments (and a "moment" in this tome can be 40 or 50 pages long) come when he relaxes and lets the story do the work. The crowning achievement of the book is t
...more
Evan
I try not to read too many reviews (if any) before beginning a book, because they invariably set me looking for a flaw I may not have noticed, or they alert me to some trivial mannerism the author has that would bother someone else, but that I may overlook. In this case, the other reviewers tend towards consensus that this book is rollicking fun, but somewhat disjointed. I agree with that assessment, but remind anyone who may ever read this that the book is fun, first and foremost.

Without rehash
...more
Sandy
When this book first came out, I was very anxious to read it; but then I began to read some bad reviews, so I moved it to a virtual “back shelf.” Then, as I was browsing in Half-Price Books with a 40% off coupon in hand, I saw a practically untouched hardcover copy and decided to take the plunge. I am so glad that I did. Although it is flawed, it is a worthwhile and satisfying read.

As for the flaws, this book is rambling in parts. The storyline that takes place in Russia featuring Pfc. Hugo Blac
...more
Shonna Froebel
This has been my bedside book for quite a few months now, and I'm glad to say I've finished it. I enjoyed most of it, but it is a very complex novel with several storylines.
It begins on November 12, 1916 with a day where there were sightings of Charlie Chaplin in many places (a real historical happening). The book follows not only Chaplin himself, but also Leland Wheeler (aka Lee Duncan) a young man who witnesses one of the sightings and risks his life in trying to reach Chaplin. Leland has a dr
...more
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Glen David Gold is best known as the author of Carter Beats the Devil (Hyperion, 2001), a fictionalized biography of Charles Joseph Carter (1874-1936), an American illusionist performing from c.1900-1936. He writes in a narrative style, and the book was hailed as a very respectable venture into historical fiction. Gold is married to Alice Sebold, the author of The Lovely Bones and Lucky. The coupl ...more
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“He felt people were never intentionally beastly or malicious, but they were pompous and foolish; awful decisions were made by men divorced from their own humanity.” 5 likes
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