Mary Sheeran’s historical novel, Banished From Memory, takes readers back to the Hollywood of the 1960s.
In 1960, 16-year-old Dianna Fletcher is a Hollywood starlet longing to break out of the nice-girl, Disney roles and become a true, Hollywood star. A Hollywood legacy (along with her brothers), she finds that her parents cast a long shadow over her still-burgeoning career. Athough nominated for her first Academy Award, she has little confidence in her acting abilities and her capacity to navigate her career and personal life. Meanwhile, she’s struggling to make sense of the then-recent McCarthy-era blacklistings, which her parents might have had something to do with.
As the story unfolds, Dianna learns hard truths about her family and other stars in their luminous world, as she works to find her own footing.
The novel’s premise is intriguing, and some of the real-life Hollywood actors who appear here are credibly re-created. Katharine Hepburn, a minor yet key character, is perhaps the most sympathetic and interesting of the dozens of famous actors, producers and directors mentioned. Additionally, some of the detail offered—e.g. how Dianna’s green gown would look gray on a black and white television—is riveting.
The story suffers from some flaws, however. Often, the dialogue tells readers things outright that should have been revealed through the story’s action. Unnecessary minutiae clogs the plot: For example, the book is chockfull of Hollywood parties and awards banquets; at each one, every famous person in the room has something to say as Dianna and her family head to their table. Indeed, sometimes it feels as if Sheeran is trying to pack as many famous people into one page as possible, a penchant that grows tiresome. There are also some minor misspellings.
At 488 pages, the novel could easily be trimmed. This would greatly improve the reading experience. Nonetheless, Hollywood history buffs might enjoy immersing themselves in the glittering yet slightly ominous world Sheeran has created.