Little Known Facts is the debut novel of author Christine Sneed, who has previously published a number of short stories. It follows the world of Renn Ivins, a fictional movie star of the ilk (and generation) of Harrison Ford or Pierce Brosnan – highly successful, multi award winning, and highly sought after by both studios and women.
I was not surprised to learn that the author was known for her short stories prior to this novel, because in reality that is what it is: a collection of short stories with Renn Ivins as the central theme. There are chapters from the points of view of each of his adult children, both his ex-wives, his current lover, a props attendant and wannabe biographer, and Ivins himself, all told in different ways and different styles. Yes, there is a kind of a narrative that follows throughout the chapters, but in many ways it feels much more like a series of essays about a central character than a novel as such.
I will also add here that I was a little surprised that the focus of the novel was, in fact, Renn Ivins, mainly because the blurb on the inside front cover implies that it’s more about his children. Yes, they each get two chapters (more than anyone else does), but it feels like it is Ivins’ story which is really being told, through them, rather than their own.
That being said, it is certainly an interesting read. There is a part of all of us which is curious about the lifestyles of the rich and famous: even if you don’t read the supermarket tabloids or gossip magazines, there is still that bit that wonders what it would be like to have that kind of life. Some covet it, others would hate it, but most of us have at least considered it. This book is one way to satisfy that curiosity: it’s a peek into the life of a very successful Hollywood star, and how that stardom affects those around him and those that mean the most to him. It feels slightly voyeuristic, but it does the job.
I was also impressed with the ease with which Sneed jumped from POV to POV. All of the chapters are styled in a different way – some in first person, some in third, one (from an ex-wife) told in excerpts from her tell-all autobiography, one (Ivins) as notes from his journals. They all felt distinct from each other which is no mean feat: many established authors struggle to change the feel and narrative style of their different POV chapters, yet in this it feels effortless. It may be, as I have noted, due to her background in short stories, but it was certainly noteworthy in a novel of this length.
All in all I thought this was an excellent debut novel. Well-written, engaging and just that little bit voyeuristic, it captured my imagination and made me stay up way past my bedtime so I could finish it. If you have any curiosity about how fame can affect one’s nearest and dearest, then this is definitely one way to find out.