Sundays at Simone's

Fiction - Literary
258 Pages
Reviewed on 06/24/2021
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

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.

Edith Wairimu

A struggling musician is invited to a spectacular salon that only hosts Hollywood’s elite in Thomas Bauer’s captivating literary work, Sundays at Simone's. Michael is adopted by his Aunt Madeleine, an eccentric, strong-willed woman who raises him as her own. Upon graduating, Michael’s enthusiasm soon wanes when he realizes his music major will barely sustain him. After some discouraging jobs, he lands a position as a pianist at an Italian joint, working alongside aspiring opera singers. He also becomes a regular guest at a salon run by a seductive but insecure socialite. With a focus on promoting the arts, the salon’s conversations surround the topic but also include discussions about current business and political events. The establishment becomes the center of many dramatic scenes. Michael becomes entangled in this new world while trying to build a relationship with his girlfriend.

Sundays at Simone's by Thomas Bauer integrates different genres including romance, young adult, comedy, and literary to create an absorbing storyline. Both main and supporting characters are interesting. Michael, whose personality emerges as he narrates the story, lacks confidence and is sentimental. He becomes more discerning with the help of his aunt, Madeline. Supporting characters include Sophie, a determined woman who will use everyone in her path to attain the success she dreams of, and Luigi Forzano, an opportunistic businessman who runs the restaurant Michael works at. Humor is included in many scenes, conversations, and Michael’s observations as he narrates the story. Sundays at Simone's by Thomas Bauer is an exciting novel with surprising scenes and raises questions regarding ambition, prestige, and authenticity.

Lesley Jones

In Sundays at Simone's by Thomas Bauer, when Mike was only seven years old, his parents were killed in a car accident. He was adopted by his colorful and unconventional Aunt Madeline. Madeline and her best friend Sheila are a constant form of education and entertainment for Mike. When he graduates with a music major, Mike becomes a struggling pianist where he meets and is captivated by Sophie, an ambitious opera singer. Meanwhile, the unassuming, crass Sheila has transformed herself into Simone, a formidable socialite who hosts gatherings of music and poetry for the most wealthy and influential of society. Although Madeline warns Mike to stay away from Simone, he soon accepts Simone's offer to become her pianist. Mike realizes that Simone wants more from him than his musical talents and he is soon drawn into a sordid affair. As time goes on, Mike discovers the dark reality of the Hollywood elite and the consequences of betrayal and deceit.

Sundays at Simone's by Thomas Bauer is such a beautifully written story that has many subtle but powerful life lessons weaved throughout. The plot is very interesting and continually reveals layer upon layer of information regarding the cast of colorful characters. I adored Aunt Madeline and the values she tried to instill into Mike as a child. The scene with the homeless person really spoke volumes about her warm and loving personality. I also loved this piece of advice she gave to Mike. “The people you know and the places you visit and the things you do will always be your greatest teachers. Mikey.” Mike was also a wonderful character, his innocence and kindness shone through perfectly. There were many shocking scenes during Simone's gatherings, especially when the KKK member expressed his views on Hitler. The storyline also highlights the dangers of placing ambition above the need to retain your self-respect and the trappings of materialism. Sundays at Simone's also reminds us that nothing is as it seems on the surface; sometimes what seems like a perfect life has a darker side you would not want.