Most of us only experience the excitement of the Academy Awards via our television screens. But what if we could become the proverbial fly on the wall and be privy to the personal lives of the Best Actress nominees as they journey along the path towards Oscar? Author Tracie Banister invites readers to partake in this journey in her fictional treasure Blame It on the Fame.
Blame It on the Fame is the perfect book to whet our appetite for the upcoming real life Academy Awards slated for early 2016. In her novel, Banister gives readers an intimate portrait of her fictional five Best Actress nominees. What is striking about Banister’s account is the authentic flavor. The reader will feel as if he or she is getting to know these powerhouse actresses amidst the backdrop of the Hollywood machinery. We witness their personal and professional successes and failures. These are very different women whose lives intersect when they compete for the industry’s highest honor.
Frontrunner Danielle Jamison is the epitome of a diva. She is a self-centered, overbearing woman accustomed to manipulating the press. When the cameras are trained on her, Danielle resorts to a Donna Reed persona becoming the doting wife and mother to her less accomplished actor husband Logan and their young children. But when the cameras are gone, she’s an emotionally and verbally abusive terror to everyone around her. Danielle’s personality is in stark contrast to her humble beginnings as a Kansas farm girl. Her mammoth ego convinces her that she’s the brightest star in Oscar’s constellation and that her fellow nominees don’t hold a candle to her.
Veteran actress Laurel Hastings’ return from a self-imposed exile from acting is met with an Oscar nomination. Instead of savoring this honor, Oscar becomes a weighty albatross around her neck. Consequently, Laurel’s fears and insecurities are magnified when the sanctity of her suburban abode is evaded by the hungry press salivating over every misstep. Unfortunately, Laurel’s emotional stability is tested when she is faced with a betrayal that shakes her foundation.
Troubled supermodel turned actress Anaya Reynolds is the antithesis of an Oscar nominee. Instead of exhibiting “dignified” Oscar nominee conduct, Anaya serves at the altar of decadence: heavy drinking and hard partying fills her nights. She is the poster girl for bad behavior. Her steadfast manager and friend, Robert, who discovered her as a teen and helped to transform her into an international superstar, has difficulty reigning in his wayward client. Sadly, Anaya’s irresponsibly puts her on a collision course with disaster. Will she be destroyed or, like the phoenix, is she capable of rising from the ashes?
British stage and screen star Philippa Sutcliffe is more attuned to perfecting her craft than focusing on the hoopla surrounding her Oscar nomination. In addition, she is less than enthused that her on again, off again lover and co-star Miles McCrea is also nominated for a Best Actor Oscar. These two are like oil and water. However, they are also arguably soul mates whose destinies seem forever linked despite the hurt and mistrust they cause each other.
Finally, first time nominee Jordan Schaeffer hails from Oscar royalty. Her mother is an Academy Award winning actress while her father received the statue for his directorial ability. While her mother skillfully courts the press and feeds on the admiration, Jordan is uncomfortable around the media and lives in her parents’ shadow. She wants to be seen as her own person and as a formidable actress in her own right. In addition, Jordan harbors a secret that threatens to topple her promising acting career and undermine her relationship with her parents.
Banister effectively shows the politics that goes into winning an Oscar. Danielle’s frontrunner status is mentioned throughout the book, but does this mean she should clear a spot on her mantle for the prize? Any one of her fellow nominees is equally deserving. Banister purposefully keeps the suspense at the forefront of the reader’s mind as each actress appears as if she will emerge victorious. I won’t spoil for you which actress ultimately wins, but I will share that it wasn’t the lady I thought it would be.
The month leading up to Oscar is a whirlwind of excitement and confusion for all of the nominees. Banister’s strong writing allows the reader to feel these emotions as well. I was amazed at how perceptive and brilliant Banister wrote the actual Oscar ceremony. I felt as though I was right there for all the on camera and backstage drama.
Banister excels at honing in on character motivation. Character and plot have a symbiotic relationship and Banister clearly understands this. Her characters are realistically drawn. There are no cardboard villains on her canvas. Each character is flawed in some way. Each character is marvelously unique and beautifully accentuates the narrative. The bad girls aren’t solely bad. They are damaged, fractured and scared. We can sympathize with them. Such is the heart of a gifted writer like Banister.
Her dialogue is impeccable. The words are authentic to each character and serve to flesh out their unique personalities. Particularly noteworthy is how wonderful Banister is at writing accents. The reader can almost hear Philippa’s English dialect and Miles’ Scottish brogue.
Engaging characters, riveting plots, descriptive charm, marvelous dialogue and smooth pacing are the necessary ingredients for this book. Banister has given readers are powerful page turner.
Banister’s characters make a valiant attempt to “control their lives so it doesn’t control them.” This fact could also be viewed as an implied theme of the book: Do the choices these actresses make define who they are? What responsibility do we assign to them for their ill-fated decisions? Or, do we allow them to take their failures and blame it on the fame?