Tuesday, 18 June 2013

The Little Shadows by Marina Endicott

published 2011   Act One Part 3 







[The Belle Auroras have got their first real singing job

‘Have you a lobby photograph for the girls there?’ He saw from her face that they had none. ‘After your lunch go to Leroy’s Studio on 8th Avenue. They will not overcharge you.’…

They made a little stir going through the lobby, three bright-faced well-fed girls on the way to Leroy’s Studio— where a plump, avid young man seemed only too happy to take their photograph, divesting them of their coats with speedy competence and sitting them in a succession of poses against his painted backdrop, Aurora in the centre and the other two in various attitudes around her. He disposed Aurora’s coat tenderly over her shoulders when they were done and looked meaningfully at her, but she contrived to be very concerned about the tying of Bella’s shawl. Three poses, ten prints, to be sent to the theatre in the morning - $2 more out of the grouch-bag, but Aurora decided not to fret about that. They would soon enough be paid - Gentry had all but promised.



observations: @Sara O’Leary is a friend to this blog in many ways, but she has surpassed herself in recommending this book. It is a) the perfect Clothes in Books novel in that it is full of splendid clothes descriptions but b) is also one of the best books I’ve read this year. It’s a book to get lost in: it follows the lives of the Belle Auroras, three sisters trying to make their way in vaudeville in Canada and the northern USA at the beginning of the 20th century. I think Endicott is well-known and a prizewinner in her native Canada, but she deserves much wider recognition. The writer she most reminds me of is Michael Chabon: she has the same ability to create a whole world and convince you it is real, with an almost uncanny authenticity. Of course a smart writer can research vaudeville, and find out about the jokes and the kind of acts, and the way it all worked – for example, we find out that ‘going on in one’ means an act that uses only the front of the stage, so the scenery could be changed behind the curtain. It’s satisfying to learn that, and I expect you could look it up in a reference work. But there's an extra dimension - how does Endicott make even the gossip in the dressing-rooms sound so real? I am in awe of this book.

This bit of The Little Shadows is near the beginning, as they start out, and there will doubtless be several more entries as we follow them around.

Meanwhile, there are several references to the girls and their mother doing their hair in rags, something we looked at in this entry with this picture:




The grouch-bag is slang for a purse – there is a claim that Groucho Marx got his name from wearing one round his neck. The girls’ budgeting is followed in some detail, very reminiscent of the wonderful Fossil Sisters in blog favourite Ballet Shoeshere they’re working out how much audition dresses will cost – and of course the matching Whicharts. The Little Shadows has the charm and wonder of Ballet Shoes along with the realism and grit of the Whicharts.

The picture is of a vaudeville act called the Machinson sisters, and is from Wikimedia Commons.

11 comments:

  1. So happy you are loving the book - I thought you would. And so happy too , to see the book getting the wonderful Clothes in Books treatment. You are so right about the way it just magics up a whole world for you to step right into.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank YOU Sara, it has been such a pleasure to get to know you online, as well as a delight to read this book.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Every time I chastise myself for frittering writing time on social media I remind myself of how much I have enjoyed making connections such as this one.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Exactly Sara, couldn't have expressed it better...

      Delete
  4. I just finished "Little Shadows" a few months ago and it is still with me. You are right, Marina Endicott creates a beautiful world and once you fall into it it is as real as anything you've ever known. So glad to see this entry! :-)

    ReplyDelete
  5. I just finished "Little Shadows" a few months ago and it is still with me. You are right, Marina Endicott creates a beautiful world and once you fall into it it is as real as anything you've ever known. So glad to see this entry! :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's so nice to find another fan like this - thanks for coming by.

      Delete
  6. Moira - Oh, what a lovely book this looks to be! Vaudeville was such a unique kind of entertainment; I must look out for this one. Thanks as ever for the great review.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I do recommend this one, Margot, it is a book to get lost in - and I think you'd enjoy the use of language, there are lots of interesting snippets of word use, as I suggest in the entry.

      Delete
  7. This sounds fascinating. Vaudeville. Comparing the author Michael Chabon. I am going to have to look for this. I do a Canadian reading challenge, but up to now have read entirely mysteries written by Canadian authors. (I think.) This would be something different.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think you might like it Tracy, it's a really long leisurely read to get lost in.

      Delete