Jane Green’s new biographical fiction Sister Stardust centers the Dutch model and actress Talitha Getty, wife of the famous oil heir, J. Paul Getty Jr. Their home in Marrakesh, Morocco, was a bustling center for rock stars like Mick Jagger, and Talitha Getty’s bohemian, counter culture style influenced 1960’s fashion. Her inventive outfits from the markets of Marrakesh combined with beautiful clothes from designer Yves Saint Laurent inspired countless women in the 60s and today who wear flowing gowns, embroidered fabrics, and knee-high boots in Talitha’s unique style.
Green’s use of a fictional narrator, Claire, to tell the story of Talitha’s rise and fall is an effective storytelling technique that builds suspense, even if you know what happened to Talitha in real life. The book begins as Claire tells her daughter about her friendship with Talitha, and their experiences with sex, drugs and partying.
Green excels in describing the lush menagerie of rock stars, fashionable clothes, amazing food, and flavors of Marrakesh. Tragically, the drug culture of the times permeated Talitha’s life. Green details the excessive drug abuse: “‘I’ve never seen anything like it.’ I sank down on a pile of floor cushions and accepted the joint Talitha handed to me, happy that this, at least, I knew how to do. I passed the joint to Eddie as Talitha put a vodka drink in my hand and held out a tray of sticky, dark balls, encouraging me to try one… ‘Mahjoun. Our chef makes it himself. It’s chocolate, honey, butter, dried fruits, nuts and spices. And, of course, an awful lot of kif…Hashish! That’s what it’s called here’.”
While reading Sister Stardust, I was transported to the hedonistic world that Green extensively researched. Green describes the time of extremes: “…There was so much chaos. There was so much magic, and beauty, and laughter, and joy, and darkness, and hedonism, but above all, chaos. Of course it was unsustainable. But for that short period of time, back in the late nineteen sixties, we learned what it was to be truly alive.”
The beauty and the tragedy of Talitha’s life in Sister Stardust raise questions about society’s expectations of women in contrast to contemporary times. I found this glimpse of history fascinating, as Talitha, in her troubled, short life influenced many people.
Sister Stardust will be available April 5, 2022, from Hanover Square Press.