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Reviewed by Jon Michael Miller for Readers' Favorite
Sundays at Simone’s by Thomas Bauer is a first-person novel that reads almost like a memoir. Our narrator and protagonist is Michael McDowell, well versed in all things music, especially classical, the Los Angeles environs, film and theater, and food (especially Italian). He is also a superb storyteller. After his parents were killed in a car crash and now an only child, Mike was adopted by his Aunt Madeleine, who after a rough beginning achieved personal wealth from a husband who bequeathed her a fortune. Adoptee Michael grew up having lots of “Uncle Johns,” who spent time in his aunt’s Laurel Canyon home. There he meets his aunt’s longtime friend Sheila, who having changed her name to Simone and used her beauty and wiles, marries a film mogul and begins a lavish Sunday “salon” at her Bel Air mansion for the known and wannabe-knowns.
Here we meet a plethora of fascinating and satirized characters—writers, painters, critics, even synchronized Olympic swimmers. It’s all something to behold. I enjoyed every paragraph. Particularly engaging is Michael’s personal development from a shy, average music major as a pickle jar piano player in an Italian restaurant to a responsible, caring, professional man. He has a lot going on but remains mostly in background roles rather than starring ones. He describes himself as “a second-rate accompanist of talented women and a factotum in the studio doing the bidding of my superiors.” But, boy, does he have an eye for what’s happening around him! Besides the hilarious Sunday salon meetings that finally end sensationally, we trace Michael’s love life with beautiful opera prima donnas and one extremely hush-hush paramour. Refreshing, titillating, smart, Sundays at Simone’s by Thomas Bauer is not to be missed.