‘Little Known Facts’ by Christine Sneed

Slick, fast-paced and with that ‘I-know-it’s-sleazy-but-I-can’t-stop-watching’ element of Entourage, Little Known Facts, the debut novel by Christine Sneed is a brilliant read.

It’s the story of Hollywood movie star, Ren Ivins, and is told from the perspective of the various people around him from his children (Will and Anna) and ex-wives to the kid who looks after props on the set of one of his films. In many ways, Ren is exactly like you would expect –

“‘I’m an ass man and a tits man. Why should I have to choose between the two?’ Indeed. The usual laws of supply and demand do not apply to movie stars.”

And in many ways, Ren is unbelievably insecure.

“I keep two journals – one of them, J1, to be published after my death if the executor of my estate (who is my attorney, not one of my kids) thinks enough people will want to read it. The other journal, J2, I don’t and won’t share with anyone…. This is where I write down the things that I have done or the thoughts I have had that sometimes make it hard to sleep at night. I can’t talk to my psychiatrist about these things because I don’t want him to think badly of me…”

The narrator changes with each chapter. Elements of the over-arching story are presented as snapshots within the context of each character, progressing the story in a series of small but satisfying jumps. By structuring the story this way, Sneed slowly peels back layers of the main players and in doing so, reveals them for who they truly are. Cleverly, Sneed manages to do this on many levels from major plot points to seemingly inconsequential asides (who knew a pair of RayBans could reveal so much?).

This novel is not the lightweight it may first appear. Sneed’s writing is perfectly paced and her observations injected with wry humour.

“Sometimes, to get ahead, to step out of the rapids that are rushing you toward nowhere but death, you have to do a thing or two that wouldn’t make your parents or the president or your therapist proud.”

Sneed also gives her characters believable neediness – not in a ‘I’m a movie star so look at me’ kind of way but rather she hones in on the insecurities experienced by those living in Ren’s reflected glory. And herein lies the paradox – Renn’s kids want for nothing. They have wealth, associated fame and relative anonymity but we discover that it all comes at a price – insecurity, a lack of ambition (in the case of Will) and trouble trusting others. As Will says –

He knows that he could do anything he wants to with his life. If he wanted to study oceanography or take photographs of gazelles in the Serengeti, no one would tell him that he should find a more practical career, one that would enable him to pay his bills and support the family he would surely want one day. Isn’t he lucky to have so much? He should be happy, they would say. In fact, he should be ecstatic.”

Little Known Facts is more than the standard Hollywood story – dare I say it would make a great movie?!

4/5 It’s quick and relatively light… and yet it lingers.

My copy of Little Known Facts was supplied courtesy of Bloomsbury via NetGalley.

The first part of this story is set in New Orleans. So jambalaya, right? After searching for an online recipe that approximates the one I usually use, I have decided that it is almost impossible to take a decent photo of this delicious dish.

little known facts by christine sneed

19 responses

  1. It’s not a dish that looks appealing, but it is. This one does sound good, it’s not a new technique, but I feel like there is a trend of telling the story through multiple narrators to reveal the overall story lately. Two of the three new releases I’ve read in the last couple of weeks have been that way (Ashenden, Twelve Tribes of Hattie).

  2. Booksaremyfavouriteandbest – thank you – what a great early review and I’m grateful that you took the time to read and then write so thoughtfully about my new book. I might also have to make some jambalaya soon. My partner is vegetarian though, so that precludes a traditional jambalaya! If you haven’t read Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter, it’s another literary read about Hollywood that I highly recommend.

      • I shared your review with Bloomsbury and the nice folks there are very pleased. Thank you again. The US Bloomsbury branch is publishing my story collection in paperback in mid-February; I’m hopeful that some of those copies will migrate over to the UK. Right now Portraits is only in hardbound form from University of Massachusetts Press.

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