My rating: 5 of 5 stars
*I received a copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*
I’m always a sucker for books about California history, particularly when they relate the historical context back to California’s present challenges. This book did not disappoint! Although I was fairly familiar with Charlie Chaplin, I was much less familiar with Mary Pickford so it was a delight that the book focused in on Pickford’s life leading up to her involvement in the question of Beverly Hills annexation into the larger surrounding city of Los Angeles.
Nancie Clare’s book is well timed. Water issues, government corruption, local issues and business interests all shape the story but Mary Pickford stands as such a powerful lead figure that I’d be surprised if the book won’t soon become a movie or TV series. Although, like many, I prefer the book I think that nonfiction authors benefit from translating historical facts into visually and narratively compelling stories that are easily translated to all audiences and not just history buffs. As a reader it helps me to place past events into a time line that feels relevant and powerful in the present rather than becoming a whole list of dates and tedious details that divorces me from the true impact of the events.
Clare presents the story of Beverly Hills’ fight to be an independent city as a historically important event for the city, for California and world politics. She makes the argument that this fight shaped the way celebrities involve themselves in politics. The focus on Mary Pickford outlines the relatively domestic way via an incredibly shrewd woman whose awareness of her own powers in business and politics left deep impacts that although perhaps unknown to many are not unfamiliar.
Although The Battle for Beverly Hills is about a historic political event and moment it also presents us with a view into a past that remains relevant today in a way that can help us engage and understand how every day actions translate into political actions that shape the world around us.
This book will be released in early March.