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Sister Stardust


Sister Stardust

Jane Green is a novelist who keeps reinventing herself, and in her exciting latest chapter, she has tackled her first-ever novel that reimagines the life of an actual historical figure. In this case, the person in question is Talitha Getty, who was married to Paul Getty (yes, one of those Gettys) in the 1960s but died in 1971 at the young age of 30.

Talitha is not the central figure of SISTER STARDUST, though her alluring personality soon draws the narrative to her. Green’s protagonist is Claire, a middle-class young woman from a small town in Dorset. After her father marries a woman she disrespects and dislikes, Claire moves to London in 1966 to seek a more independent life, one surrounded by fashionable, exciting people who couldn’t be more unlike her provincial parents.

"The conflict at the novel’s compelling, and readers will eagerly transport themselves back to a time and place that seem simultaneously sophisticated and innocent."

There, thanks to a combination of good looks, social connections and luck, Claire is drawn into a social circle that includes artists, actors and musicians. At first, their association is merely casual. But when, on a whim, she invites her new acquaintances to her brother’s 21st birthday party in Dorset (more or less just to spite her stepmother) and they show up, she’s utterly captivated by their glamour and disregard for convention. So much so that when they invite her to accompany them to Marrakech, she accepts --- even though she’s carrying virtually nothing but her passport.

In Marrakech, Claire and many others stay at the enchanting, seductive palace of Talitha and Paul Getty. She encounters magnificent food, mind-altering drugs, amazing music and dance, beautiful and evocative scenery, and an immediate attraction to the utterly magnetic Talitha herself. But the longer Claire stays, and the tighter she’s drawn into Talitha’s inner circle, the more she begins to recognize the darkness at its core. Is this the life Claire wants for herself? Or is there a different path for her?

SISTER STARDUST is an interesting amalgam of history and fiction. Green includes plenty of cameos by real-life figures, including Yves Saint Laurent and Mick Jagger, but she also rounds out the real-life Gettys’ social circle with fictional characters (like Claire) who advance the plot in important ways. Claire’s foray into Talitha’s world of bohemian luxury is alluring, especially when Green describes the Marrakech environs, from the architecture and design to the markets and the mountains around the city. She even includes a handful of recipes (some of which contain, um, secret ingredients).

The incessant name-dropping can grow slightly tiresome at times. Still, the conflict at the novel’s center --- Claire’s desire for safety but also for a kind of life wildly different from the one she’s always known --- is compelling, and readers will eagerly transport themselves back to a time and place that seem simultaneously sophisticated and innocent.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on April 8, 2022

Sister Stardust
by Jane Green

  • Publication Date: May 2, 2023
  • Genres: Fiction, Historical Fiction
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Hanover Square Press
  • ISBN-10: 1335449582
  • ISBN-13: 9781335449580