Sister Stardust transports you to another time where life is carefree, exhilarating and dangerous. 1960’s England was a unique time in history…moral was high, the World Cup was won, fresh new music from The Beatles and The Rolling Stones emerged, and London was the place to be.
Claire leaves her small town for the big city, gets swept up by a new group of friends and lands at famous model, actress and socialite Talitha and wealthy oilman Paul Getty’s renovated palace in Marrakesh. With parties and a glamorous lifestyle, this new life in the fast lane for the small town girl is eye opening and intoxicating. Talitha Getty immediately becomes the mysterious and beautiful woman Claire, now dubbed Cece by her sophisticated friends, is drawn to and a deep friendship blooms…one not to be forgotten. Musicians, models, dancing, drugs and sex, along with the connection to her kindred spirit, Talitha and her own secrets weighs heavily on Cece as she figures out who she really is, and makes decisions that determine her fate and future.
In Sister Stardust, Jane Green beautifully tackles her first foray into historical fiction and takes us for a magical and hedonistic ride to a wild, fun and also dark place. I recommend this novel that elegantly transports you to a different time…if you are at all like me, you will be googling as you read to learn more about Talitha Getty, Paul McCartney, Brian Jones, Yves Saint Laurent and other famous guests who make an appearance at the exotic Moroccan palace!
Q & A with Jane Green
Q: What inspired you to revisit the 1960s and what sparked your interest in Talitha Getty?
A: I’ve been fascinated by both the sixties and early seventies, and Talitha Getty, for most of my adult life. When my new editor, John Glynn, asked if I would ever consider historical fiction, I immediately knew that this was the story I wanted to tell, even though I had no idea at that time what the story would be. There is so little written about Talitha Getty, mostly I think, due to her tragic untimely death at the age of thirty and the somewhat mysterious circumstances surrounding it, that I wanted to do a deep dive and find out as much as I could. The story came out of the research, and discovering how closely the Rolling Stones were associated with Morocco and the Getty’s.
Q: You included a substantial bibliography at the end of Sister Stardust showcasing the intense amount of reading you did on relevant subjects. Can you tell me a bit about your research process and did you travel to Morocco as well?
A: I went to Morocco a couple of years prior, but fell in love with it, I think, many years ago when I first spotted the famous Patrick Lichfield photograph of Talitha Getty on the rooftop of their palace in Marrakech. At the time I was researching another book which has a Moroccan section in it, and really needed to just immerse myself in Marrakech as an ex-pat rather than a tourist, which involves getting to know locals who are generous and gracious enough to allow you to see their city through their eyes.
Q: This is your first biographical fiction book and I could tell you immersed yourself in 1960s Marrakech because as I was reading, I felt like I was right there with Cece and Talitha wearing a kaftan and dancing under the stars in magical Morroco. What are the differences in writing historical fiction vs. women’s fiction, which do you prefer and will you take on any other genres, like memoir, for example?
A: I found this far easier to write than pure fiction because there is so much to draw on. The discipline of research was something I hadn’t known I had needed, and now that I have experienced it, I’m not sure I am ready to go back to pure fiction. I have just finished a novella, this time set in 1979, which will be coming out exclusively as a podcast. Although the characters are named differently, it would be very easy to think of it as a sequel. And for the next, I am starting to read about the trip the Beatles took to Rishikesh in India in 1968, to visit the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi at the Ashram. I don’t think I have an interest in memoir, but continue to write essay-type features for The Daily Mail, and would very much like to do a book of essays.
Q: Cece wanted acceptance and adventure in her life, Talitha “collected people, was happiest when they were scores of guests for dinner every night…”. Which woman do you identify with more and who did you prefer writing?
A: There is a bit of me in every book I write, and certainly parts of me in both Cece and Talitha. Cece is entirely fictitious, so perhaps she has a little more of me. I tried to draw Talitha as I felt her from the research, with this extraordinarily magnetic personality and joie de vivre, masking deep childhood trauma.
Q: Claire leaves London for exotic Marrakech, changes her identity by becoming Cece, and adopts a more experimental lifestyle, yet in the end she returns to London and a more traditional way of life. She was offered the opportunity to stay in Morocco; why did you choose to have her return home?
A: When I started writing the book, I had no idea of the events that would take place. I had planned for Cece to stay for the best part of a year, but then became fixated on Brian Jones during the research, the man who founded and named the Rolling Stones before being asked to leave when his drug dependency became intolerable. He had bought Cotchford Farm, the house that had belonged to AA Milne, where he wrote Winnie the Pooh, and was found dead in his swimming pool at the age of twenty seven, very shortly after leaving the band. It spun my story into a different direction, and it seemed wrong that Cece would stay in Marrakech after the things that happened.
Q: Cece and Talitha have an instant connection but because they appear to be so different, from the outside they seem unlikely friends. What do you think brought them together and why didn’t Cece keep up with the friendship in the end?
A: What they had in common was that they were both motherless daughters, who had suffered childhood trauma. I do think that women who are motherless, or who have similar types of childhood trauma, often recognize each other; there is an instant connection that is inexplicable, which is what I wanted for Talitha and Cece. But Cece, as the sensible girl she is, knew that Talitha brought too much trouble and chaos to her life, and that she would have to make a choice between the sensible life that was now on offer, or a life that may have been filled with excitement, but danger as well.
Q: You included some recipes in the book; can you tell a bit more about them…are they your creations? (I think I could live on that Southern Cheese Soufflé – will have to try it!)
A: They are not my creations! The Mahjoun is a classic old Marrakech recipe of a chocolatey fudge made with “kid” – cannabis, and the cheese soufflé is something that Bill Willis – great friend and the designer who decorated and designed the palace in Marrakech – served, and is an old Southern recipe.
Q: You wrote about so many famous people visiting the Gettys at Sidi Mimoun – Gore Vidal, Mick Jagger, Yves Saint Laurent etc. Was is challenging to integrate truth and imagination?
A: The beauty of the research was discovering scenes that could almost be dropped into the book, Yves Saint Laurent creating a bird’s nest diadem on Talitha’s head at a party, for example. I was very careful with people who are still around, giving them anodyne cameo roles rather than large parts, and tried to remain faithful to all. My hope is that anyone reading this will see that it was written as a love letter, to Talitha, to Marrakech, and to the sixties.
Q: You are incredibly talented, not just as a writer, but also through other ways of creative expression. From decorating to cooking to many forms of art… you can keep yourself busy doing all sorts of fun projects! Can you share some of the sketches you did that relate to Sister Stardust? (Mick Jagger and others?)
A: I rediscovered my former art-student self through the writing of this book. I haven’t drawn or painted anything for years, but all of a sudden I couldn’t stop. I ended up painting a pattern inspired by one of Talitha’s kaftans, which was printed on silk chiffon and I have a line of kaftans and beach cover-ups, plus a line of Talitha-inspired jewelry, coming out in April.
Q: Can you tell me a bit about the gorgeous book cover? (I love the ethereal vibe, the green and sunset colors and the feminine font!)
A: Sometimes it takes a few iterations to get a cover right, but this was so clearly perfect from the outset. Often a design team doesn’t read the book, which sounds bizarre, but you wouldn’t believe how many times that has happened. Or, the book comes out in the summer and instead of the cover reflecting the story, it will have a generic beach cover because that is supposed to sell more books. I felt very much that tremendous thought and care went into this cover, not to mention reading of the actual book!
Q: If Sister Stardust became a movie (and what an amazing movie that would be), who would you cast in the leads?
A: I very much like Miley Cyrus for Lissy Ellery, but am not sure who I would pick for Talitha. A young Rose Byrne would have been lovely!
Q: What have you read lately that you would recommend?
Q: Would you consider writing about another historical icon?
A: I’m not sure there is another icon that has got under my skin in the way Talitha Getty has, but we shall see.
Q: How can we keep up with all you do?
A: I am busiest on Instagram, almost as busy on Facebook, disastrous on Twitter, and my website probably hasn’t been updated in three years. All the business means I really ought to have a team of people, but there is only me, and only so much I can achieve in a day!
Thank you to booktrib.com for publishing my review!
About Jane Green
Jane Green is the author of twenty one novels, including eighteen New York Times Bestsellers, one cookbook, and various short stories.
She is published in over 25 languages, and has over ten million books in print worldwide.
She has been part of the ABC News team covering royal weddings, has had her own radio show on BBC Radio London, and has made regular appearances on TV and radio.
She contributes to a number of newspapers and magazines, and is a graduate of the International Culinary Institute in New York. Green is an avid cook, amateur decorator, and passionate gardener. She is also a regular storyteller for The Moth. Her first story for The Moth, Greener Grass, was video taped and subsequently went viral on Facebook, with over three million views.
A resident of Westport, Connecticut, she lives there with her husband and a small menagerie of animals. Her children swear they have flown the nest, but she’s not sure she believes them. In her next life she wants to come back as Elin Hilderbrand.