Sunday, September 11, 2011
THE LITTLE SHADOWS by Marina Endicott (2011) Doubleday Canada, 541 pages
Marina Endicott's debut novel, GOOD TO A FAULT, garnered my reader loyalty as well as a Giller Prize shortlist nod for her a few years ago. So, I was delighted to receive the ARC of her forthcoming book THE LITTLE SHADOWS, a story grounded in the fantastically rich world of vaudeville in the early years of the 20th century.
After the unexpected death of their father, the Avery sisters, Aurora (16), Clover (14) and Bella (13) take to the footlights to earn a living as a singing trio under the tutelage of their mother, a former vaudeville darling. They share stages with magicians, animal wranglers, and tired comedians across Canada and the United States from 1912 through 1917 always hoping that a future booking will provide them the independent financial security they crave.
Of course there are love affairs that each girl needs to navigate, in the wings and on stage, some of which are genuine and others that are relationships of convenience and cruelty.
Endicott's extraordinary attention to period detail will astonish as you become immersed in the lives and preoccupations of the Avery sisters as they come to realize the essence of a vaudeville life, "dancing, singing, dying, that is all of it."
This year's Giller Prize jury--Andrew O'Hagan, Annabel Lyon and Howard Norman--have plucked THE LITTLE SHADOWS out of the 150+ titles submitted for consideration and given it a place on their longlist alongside Michael Ondaatje and Guy Vanderhaeghe. Because of the grace with which the narrative unfolds I have every expectation to see Endicott's name make the shortlist as well.