Once Upon a Time in Hollywood Novel Review


Getty Images

LOS ANGELES, CA – NOVEMBER 16: The Hollywood Sign is seen on November 16, 2005 in Los Angeles, California. The historic landmark is undergoing a month-long makeover; erected in 1923 as a giant ad for a housing development and originally read “Hollywoodland”, the sign with letters that are 45 feet tall and 36 feet wide was declared a Los Angeles Cultural Historical Monument in 1973. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

Lucas Oliveira, Reporter

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is a novel that was published in June 2021, written by famous Hollywood director, Quentin Tarantino. The novel is based off Tarantino’s most recent film, which goes by the same name. 

The central character of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is Hollywood itself. For someone who grew up in 60’s LA, Tarantino can accurately describe what it was like to live in Hollywood at the time. It seems the novel itself is a love letter to that era which was so long ago, describing the land with such intricate detail and care, that the reader can be immersed and feel as if they are driving through the bright streets with Cliff Booth. 

With merely the outline of a story that takes over the place of a day, as a substitute for a plot, the characters are what carry the novel. Tarantino introduces us to his most mature, deep, and interesting cast of characters yet. The standout being Cliff Booth, a stuntman in Hollywood with a reputation as a WWII veteran who killed his wife and got away with it. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is filled to the brim with fun, diverse, and interesting characters. There is not one stranger who is introduced in the novel that doesn’t have personality. From random members of the Manson family to our protagonists, this is a book that is littered with characters that will keep the reader engaged.

For any fans that had watched the film, the novel is not a direct novelisation of the movie. It may have a scene or two displayed on the pages, but it is not simply a copy of the film. However, for any of those who have not yet seen the film and would like to read the book, it is much more beneficial to watch the film beforehand. The novel repeatedly takes scenes from the film and will alter them, showing them in other character’s perspectives, or give context to scenes that the film did not have the time to dive into. Anyone who hasn’t seen the film or familiarized themselves with a grand knowledge and love for film will find themselves confused, bored or both. 

It’s not a perfect book, however. The writer will often list famous actors and directors and films of the 60’s as if the audience knows who they are, which wouldn’t be so bad if it didn’t happen quite frequently as it does. The novel also has some errors with its timeline. 

And for anyone who is uncomfortable with it, this book contains vulgar language, sexual acts, and violence. 

Overall, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is a good book that I would recommend to any fans of the film, the director, or just reading in general. With some minor issues and complaints, I give Once Upon a Time in Hollywood a 4/5.