Me and Orson Welles by Robert Kaplow

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Me and Orson Welles by Robert Kaplow

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Laura Bailey
Reviewed by Laura Bailey
Summary: A delightfully charming novel about a 17 year old boy in 1930s Manhattan who, through the experiences of a single week, starts to make his way towards adulthood. I found this novel easy to read and difficult to put down. This book would appeal to both teenagers and adults.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 288 Date: November 2009
Publisher: Vintage
ISBN: 978-0099540199

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Richard Samuels sees everything in terms of a performance, through the rose-tinted lens of the theatrical celebrities he listens to on the radio. So when he stumbles onto the Broadway stage through a chance encounter with Orson Welles, it seems as if all his dreams may be about to come true. He goes from being the guy that all the girls see as a friend, one of the bookish kids at school, to the glamour of mingling with stars of the stage. We follow Richard's struggle to balance this newly discovered wonderland and his school life, not to mention his disapproving mother.

Richard is a brilliant evocation of the many facets of teenage life. Kaplow carefully captures the awkward mixture of ambition, conceit and desire that epitomises most people's teenage years. This novel will probably stir up in adults forgotten feelings, such as the sense of freedom at an unexpected day off school and how important and immediate everything seems when you are seventeen years old. For teenage readers it will be a familiar journey, comforting and insightful to read. We follow the huge ups and downs and the teenage mistakes and watch as Richard learns from each experience and makes his way slowly towards adulthood.

A lot of the characters, particularly Orson Welles himself, are larger than life and have a feeling of superficiality about them that is not necessarily bad, but instead accentuates the feelings of being a teenager thrown into a world of adults. At times this superficiality stretches to the main character as well and there are places where Richard uses words that you wouldn't expect to find in the inner monologue of a seventeen year old boy, such as 'unoccluded,' which does seem unrealistic in places. He also seems a little bit too unconcerned for others, often admitting to the reader during an emotional outburst that he is only doing so for the theatricality of the moment, and because of this I found it hard to connect with the character straight away.

The plot moves forward subtly, almost deceptively so. However, the tension does increase about two thirds of the way through the book and it goes from being a gentle read to being impossible to put down. I would have liked the tension to have been built up earlier; nonetheless the result is a relaxing and enjoyable journey. The only place in which the plot seems to jar is the point when (trying not to give too much away) Richard realises what he wants to do with his life. This realisation seems slightly unrealistic, with the character suddenly claiming to have all along wanted to be something that the reader has not heard mentioned before in the book, which weakens the ending a little.

This novel has a strong sense of the time and place it is set in – 1930s Manhattan – and has that feeling of excitement about theatre and respect for genuine talent that seems less common today. As a British reader I couldn't help but imagine the characters speaking in American accents and I could visualise the characters incredibly clearly, so strong was the sense of place and time in the descriptive language as well as in the speech and actions of the characters.

Me and Orson Welles is a wonderful coming of age story with a main character whom both adults and teenagers will be able to relate to. The word that seems to best describe this book is 'charming'; it starts by taking you back to a more glamorous time and leaves you with a sense of possibility.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

If you liked Me and Orson Welles then you might like On Borrowed Wings by Chandra Prasad, a moving story about a teenager fighting to find her place in the world in 1930s America.

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Buy Me and Orson Welles by Robert Kaplow at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Me and Orson Welles by Robert Kaplow at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Me and Orson Welles by Robert Kaplow at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Me and Orson Welles by Robert Kaplow at


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