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Ten Days in the Hills    by Jane Smiley Amazon.com order for
Ten Days in the Hills
by Jane Smiley
Order:  USA  Can
Knopf, 2007 (2007)
Hardcover

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* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

Publisher's Weekly calls it a 'Scintillating tale', while Booklist considers it 'Brilliant and sexy.' I couldn't say it better myself. Ten Days in the Hills is full of rich dialogue coming from intelligent if slightly flawed characters. Young Isabel is tortured by the Iraqi war and explains her reasoning with intellect. Her movie star mother Zoe cannot bond with her daughter but is enamored of an 'annoyingly serene guru'. Her ex-husband, movie director Max (Isabel's father) becomes encumbered with nine others at his estate in the hills of Hollywood and finds himself trying to put together an idea for a movie called Making Love to Elena, full of sex and conversation the conversation keeping the film from being branded porn.

Max's agent Stoney is trying to interest Max in a movie to be made in the Ukraine and Max's Jamaican ex-mother-in-law and her good friend Cassie put their friendship to the test. Elena, Max's live-in at the moment, is a little unsure of herself but not of her love for Max. Their love scene is explicit but not offensive, presented more with a clinical eye. Elena's son Simon shaves his head for his part in a student film featuring dancing penises. Charlie, an old friend of Max's, finds the group's inattention to world matters trying.

References to old movies abound and bring a world of memories flowing back, as does the music. Smiley is a storyteller without equal. Each of her characters leap off the page with their thoughts and beliefs. The two mansions and gardens that these people visit are beyond description but Smiley manages it with grace and finesse. In these ten days, individually, these people manage to make life-changing decisions. Their take on the war is prominent in the storyline, as each expresses approval or disapproval of what has been made to happen. Ten Days in the Hills is a wonderful, thought provoking book that is not easy to put down once the last page has been devoured.

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