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Novel of the week: Sunnyside by Glen David Gold
Set during World War I, <em>Sunnyside</em> uses mistaken sightings of Charlie Chaplin to link multiple characters and their separate adventures.

(Knopf, $26.95)

“The most interesting novels,” said Malcolm Jones in Newsweek, “are the ones where the flaws and the virtues can’t be pulled apart.” Glen David Gold’s latest is wildly ambitious. Set during World War I, it uses numerous mistaken sightings of the movie sensation Charlie Chaplin to link multiple characters whose separate adventures carry the reader from Hollywood’s backrooms to the battlefields of Russia. “You have all you can do in the first 100 pages just to keep track” of its busy story lines. If you loved Carter Beats the Devil, Gold’s “brilliant” 2001 debut, said Mark Oppenheimer in the Forward, I advise you to write off Sunnyside as “a grandiose failure.” But “as discombobulating” as it can be, said Ron Charles in The Washington Post, Sunnyside overflows with dazzling scenes and period flavor. Chaplin himself eventually emerges as a fascinating central character, while Gold turns the effect of mass media on human consciousness into a compelling main theme. This may be “a fire hose of a novel.” But I say, “Jump into the spray.”

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