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Ten Days in the Hills [Paperback]

Jane Smiley
2.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

April 8 2008
In the aftermath of the 2003 Academy Awards, Max and Elena- he's an Oscar-winning writer/director-open their Holywood Hills home to a group of friends and neighbors, industy insiders and hangers-on, eager to escape the outside world and dissect the latest news, gossip, and secrets of the business. Over the next ten days, old lovers collide, new relationships form, and sparks fly, all with Smiley's signature sparkling wit and characterization.

With its breathtaking passion and sexy irreverence, Ten Days in the Hills is a glowing addition to the work of one of our most beloved novelists.

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Smiley (A Thousand Acres) goes Hollywood in this scintillating tale of an extended Decameron-esque L.A. house party. Gathering at the home of washed-up director Max the morning after the 2003 Academy Awards are his Iraq-obsessed girlfriend, Elena; his movie-diva ex-wife Zoe and her yoga instructor–cum–therapist–cum– boyfriend Paul; Max's insufferably PC daughter, Isabel, and his feckless agent, Stoney, who are conducting a secret affair; Zoe's oracular mother, Delphine; and Max's boyhood friend and token Republican irritant Charlie. They watch movies, negotiate their clashing diets and health regimens, indulge in a roundelay of lasciviously detailed sexual encounters and, most of all, talk—holding absurd, meandering, beguiling conversation about movies, Hollywood, relationships, the war and the state of the world. Through it all, they compulsively reimagine daily life as art: Max dreams of making My Lovemaking with Elena, an all-nude, sexually explicit indie talk-fest inspired by My Dinner with Andre, but Stoney wants him to remake the Cossack epic Taras Bulba. Smiley delivers a delightful, subtly observant sendup of Tinseltown folly, yet she treats her characters, their concern with compelling surfaces and their perpetual quest to capture reality through artifice, with warmth and seriousness. In their shallowness, she finds a kind of profundity. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Smiley has a gift for entwining eroticism with humanism and sparkling wit to form deliciously complex and slyly satirical fiction. And what opulent realms she loots: academia, horse racing, real estate, and now Hollywood. Here Smiley crafts dialogue every bit as provocative as her detailed sex scenes, and, once again, makes ingenious use of a literary antecedent, this time using as a template Boccaccio's Decameron. While Boccaccio's group of 10 women and men hope to escape the Black Death by sequestering themselves for 10 days in a villa outside Florence, Smiley quarantines her characters in a mansion high in the hills of Hollywood as the U.S. invades Iraq. Ensconced in luxury if plagued with moral quandaries, they sort out complex family and romantic relationships and argue over the war. Movie director Max, 58, has found contentment with Elena, 50, a charmingly commonsensical writer of unexpectedly intelligent how-to books, and the novel's ethical center. Then there's Elena's mischievous son; Max's socially conscious daughter; Max's ex, the supremely beautiful singer and actress Zoe; her imperial Jamaican mother; and Zoe's current lover, an annoyingly serene guru. A neighbor tells gossipy tales of old Hollywood, Max's agent pitches an unlikely project, and a friend from Max's boyhood irritates everyone. Each thorny character has an intriguing backstory, feelings run high, and Smiley is regally omnipotent as she advocates for art, objects to war, and considers tricky questions of power and spirit, love and compassion. Archly sexy and brilliant. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Typically intimate, and very California May 6 2007
By dub
'Ten Days in the Hills' has the typical intimacy of Smiley's works.

In an homage to the Decameron, the conversations among 10 people in a magnificent and isolated house in the Hollywood hills ramble around diets, ex's, psychobabble and movies, are brought to a stop, but only temporarily, as news of the war keeps intruding. From an interview before the Iraq invasion, Smiley stated she was going to write about Hollywood, which I thought would be thinly veiled autobiography about the filming of 'A Thousand Acres': adding the backdrop adds perhaps some needed substance to the froth.

I find her style similar to John Updike's, chronicling current mores and people with entitlement, but with more sympathy to her characters: there's usually something to like in most of them, even the greedy diva and the pompous guru, unlike Updike's Rabbits.

I love Smiley's descriptions of couples, which make me feel warm and reminiscent, and made me question my own definition of pornography. After a passage of what I thought crossed the line came a point to ponder: a middle-aged protagonist, Elena, is upset that her 20 year-old son skipped college to act in a classmate's porn movie and also that his actions are supported by the rest of the group, yet encourages her lover to film themselves making love.

As in love and war, where do we draw our own lines?
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1.0 out of 5 stars rambles for ever Oct. 28 2007
By Toni Osborne TOP 100 REVIEWER
This author narrates through 10 days of gourmet food, uninhibited sex, endless anecdotes, jokes, movie pitches, reminiscences, other tales and fear of the Iraq war. This book is a satire about the difference between the elite, the desperate and the everyday problems of real people. I found reading it was terribly slow and it never gained in resonance as it rambled along. I suggest borrowing this book, in hindsight not a very good buy. It was a painful read to the end.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 2.5 out of 5 stars  87 reviews
58 of 70 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Into the trash March 26 2007
By Roni Jordan - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Jane Smiley does indeed have a keen ear and masterful touch with dialogue, but....449 pages of eavesdropping on the rambling conversations of these assorted Hollywood stereotypes does not add up to an engrossing read. Like many others, after 150 pages of hoping for some redeeming quality in this work, I threw my copy in the trash. This book evoked the same visceral reaction I have to people carrying on cell phone conversations in public places - the instinct for fight or flight.
27 of 33 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Exceptional for the wrong reasons. May 9 2007
By Linda Pagliuco - Published on Amazon.com
Much as I hate to, I have to cast my vote in the negative column. Usually, a book written by a writer as gifted as Jane Smiley would garner an automatic 2 stars just to start. Her way with words is masterful - usually. But this novel is so mind-numbingly slow, and the characters so egocentric and shallow, that it would be difficult to spend 30 minutes in a room with them in person, never mind trying to spend umpteen pages reading about their every physical sensation. It seems none of them have very many intellectual sensations. Seinfeld was the show about nothing, but the characters and conversation were quirky, honest, and funny. This book about nothing has none of those advantages.
40 of 51 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars I never knew that SEX could be so boring March 23 2007
By Richard S. Sackler - Published on Amazon.com
This book has a lot of sex, but it has no redeeming importance, social, politcal, personal, or otherwise. It isn't just that the basic premise of analagizing the War in Iraq to the Great Plague in Europe in the 14th century is rediculous and offensive. Worse still is the fact that the book has no reason for being written or read. It is vacuous.

I wish I had read my fellow suckers' reviews and saved my money and my time. I got to page 35 and couldn't remember much of anything, because there is nothing memorable. I kept reading, but it only got more dreary. Amazing that Knopf published this MS that should have been left on the cutting room floor as a novel out-take. An equally good alternative would have been to have all the copies put into a burn bag in the CIA so that no one would have even known it existed. The author should be ashamed. The editor should be dismissed.

This book may have some use other than recycling. You can serve the Green Revolution by stoking your wood-burning stove.
21 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars She Takes a Risk May 21 2007
By Driver9 - Published on Amazon.com
By trying a structure and style that are not based on traditional plot structure and character development, Smiley takes the reader into unfamiliar waters, and it is not always entertaining. But does a novel have to be entertaining? Does every book we read have to deliver the same satisfaction of a neatly wrapped package? Isn't that more the role of television? For me, I don't mind a challenge when an author is trying to something different. I found Ten Days in the Hills to be deeply engrossing, dense and true. Smiley recreated the conversations of her characters with alarming authenticity. But for sure, this book is not for everybody, as is evident from the trouncing she gets here in Amazon.

The other risk Smiley takes is her choice of characters. Rich, snotty, Hollywood types with huge houses and too much sex. What's not to hate? But I admired the writing and the concept behind the work, if not the characters themselves, and to me her novel is a fascinating experiment. Suspend the need to relate to the characters on a personal level and the book comes alive in a very unique way. That's what I thought.
18 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I love Jane Smiley Feb. 21 2007
By Judith A. Dunworth - Published on Amazon.com
I love this author. I awaited the publication of this book with the anticipation that I would be spending time in the company of a master. I was not disappointed. I enjoyed the characters and the setting. The tales that are told are entertaining - much has been made of the sexual content but it did not strike me as gratuitous. And the political setting, the background of the war in Iraq shading the obsession or avoidance of whoever was addressing us, well, as a fan of Ms. Smiley's blogs, I was glad to hear the nuances of voices addressing our times. It is difficult to write a book that is contemporary - there are a lot of landmines in doing that. This one is of the moment, and yet it will be read in the future for the feel of what it is like to live now.
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