TITLE: THE LITTLE SHADOWS
AUTHOR: MARINA ENDICOTT
Detail: Review copy received from Hutchinson through Random House
The year is 1912 and after the death of their father and baby brother the three Avery sisters, Aurora, Clover and Bella hit the road with their mother to start their career as vaudeville stars.
Flora Avery, the girls’ mother, worked in vaudeville before she married their father and gratefully uses contacts from the old days to get her girls started. But, it is by no means plain sailing.
The world of vaudeville is highly competitive and knows no mercy. If you don’t entertain the audience you are out, no matter who you are or how bad your circumstances.
Aurora Avery, aged 16 when the story starts, is the eldest of the three sisters and the clever one, shrewd and determined to do whatever it takes to make sure her family and she will not only survive but prosper. Clover, one year younger is thoughtful and quiet, but determined once she makes up her mind. Bella, the baby, is full of fun and good natured but headstrong and single-minded when push comes to shove.
The vaudeville world will take the Avery’s through ups and downs, expose their weaknesses and enhance their strengths. It will bring them into contact with a host of characters some good and dependable, others who would use them and others again who look down on them.
When the girls start on their career they have little but their hopes to sustain them, but as the years go by and they grow up they learn about life, about themselves and about the world. Ultimately they emerge as strong, independent women while never losing the close bond that was forged through blood, shared experience and a deep love.
This is a wonderful story about what ties a family together, about learning to deal with life and keeping your chin up no matter what obstacles you find in your way. Through ups and downs, and individual and joint interests the four women always have each other to fall back on. Innocence, pride, fear and naïve carelessness all combine to make the three Avery girls irresistible characters. By the time I finished the book I felt I knew the girls personally and would have been proud to call each one of them my friend.
The book shows the compromises that need to be made in order to gain or keep the life you want, and the rewards as well as the disappointments you might meet on the way.
This is also a fascinating insight into the world of vaudeville. Filled with intimate details the life of the artists on the stage is shared with the reader to such an extent that it is easy to visualise the settings, the performances and the hard work that goes into making it all look easy.
Readers will recognise some of the songs mentioned in the book, and quietly hum along as the lyrics appear on the page.
This is a book to read at your leisure, unrushed while savouring every word. Allow yourself to join the stars on the stage, let the descriptions of acts and sets transport you to the world of vaudeville in the early 20th century and enjoy the applause of the appreciative audience.
And, once you finish the book you will want to put your own hands together to applaud Marina Endicott for the wonderful book she has gifted her readers.