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The Little Shadows [Deckle Edge] [Hardcover]

Marina Endicott
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Sept. 27 2011

Here is the eagerly anticipated new novel from a brilliant writer whose last book, Good to a Fault, was shortlisted for the prestigious Giller Prize and won the Commonwealth Prize for Canada and the Caribbean.

The Little Shadows revolves around three sisters in the world of vaudeville before and during the First World War. We follow the lives of all three in turn: Aurora, the eldest and most beautiful, who is sixteen when the book opens; thoughtful Clover, a year younger; and the youngest sister, joyous headstrong sprite Bella, who is thirteen. The girls, overseen by their fond but barely coping Mama, are forced to make their living as a singing act after the untimely death of their father. They begin with little besides youth and hope, but Marina Endicott’s genius is to show how the three girls slowly and steadily evolve into true artists even as they navigate their way to adulthood among a cast of extraordinary characters – some of them charming charlatans, some of them unpredictable eccentrics, and some of them just ordinary-seeming humans with magical gifts.

Using her gorgeous prose and extraordinary insight, Endicott lures us onto the brightly lit stage and then into the little shadows that lurk behind the curtain, and reveals how the art of vaudeville -- in all its variety, madness, melodrama, hilarity and sorrow -- echoes the art of life itself.

Frequently Bought Together

The Little Shadows + Open Arms
Price For Both: CDN$ 38.05

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Product Description


A Globe and Mail Best Book

“I don't want to diminish the accomplishment of this book by using tired adjectives of description (brilliant, compelling, rich, dramatic, sexy) or understate the power of the characters (funny, strong, tragic, brave and, yes, sexy) — so I'll simplify: the best book I've read in a long, long time; it deserves to be a contender for every major literary prize this fall."
—, Linden MacIntyre, Author of The Bishop’s Man

Praise for Good to a Fault:

"... absolutely ingenious. As you were going along, you were thinking--turning the pages-- 'This is simply delightful.'" 
— Colm Toibín

About the Author

Marina Endicott's previous novel, Good to a Fault, won the Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Best Book, Canada and the Caribbean, and was a finalist for the prestigious Scotiabank Giller Prize. Her first novel, Open Arms, was shortlisted for the Amazon/Books in Canada First Novel Award. Endicott has been an actor, director, playwright and editor, and now lives in Edmonton, Alberta.

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Customer Reviews

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF VAUDEVILLE! Feb. 1 2012
By Janet Babins TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The story is divided into three parts.
In the first part, too much time was spent on the goings-on backstage at a Vaudeville show. The characters were touched on lightly and you never had the opportunity to get to know them until much later on. I would have liked to spend more time with the sisters and see how their careers and lives developed, but it took a long time to reach that point. The second and third part of the book came alive and was more interesting.

Flora, the mother and a former vaudeville singer has fallen on hard times. Her husband, a school teacher, died unexpectedly and left Flora with no means of support. She has three daughters. Aurora is sixteen. the eldest and is very beautiful. Clover is fifteen and is shy and soulful. Bella is thirteen and is a joyful, energetic girl with a mind of her own. They are the Avery sisters. Mama and the girls are very close, because they only have each another. There is a powerful bond between them.

Flora decides to take the sisters out on the road, determined to turn them into a successful singing act The sisters start out as amateurs possessing some natural talent. They travel to Canada and the United States to audition and their name is changed to the Belle Auroras. Of course, Clover is a little sad that her name wasn't included in their new stage name, but she says nothing about it. It is before and during the First Great War in Europe. Aurora is sixteen at the time.

As they learn the ropes on how to become a much better act. An ailing and somewhat jaded musical director, unpaid, acts as the girls' singing coach. There is jealousy, deceit but also camaraderie among the vaudeville performers.

The second and third part of the story becomes very interesting and the characters come alive.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well worth the read Dec 10 2011
I found the book a little hard to get into, but was glad I persevered. Once I became acclimated to the world of vaudeville being presented to me as a 21st century reader, it was hard to put down. I found it fascinating to learn about what went on both on stage and behind-the-scenes in vaudeville, and cared about what would happen to the three sisters, known as the Belle Auroras, and their mother.The Little Shadows
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5.0 out of 5 stars Writing that digs deep into the "shadows" of life Sept. 21 2014
After immensely enjoying Good to a Fault some years ago, I came to The Little Shadows with big expectations. I was not disappointed to again find myself in the gifted hands of one of Canada’s great writing talents. The Little Shadows is literary historical fiction at its best. Many beautifully written passages reminded me why Marina Endicott’s books have found themselves on the Governor General’s Literary Award and Giller Prize short-lists.

The Little Shadows tells the story of the three Avery sisters and their mother in alternating points of view as they negotiate the world of vaudeville in the early 1900s. The book is a love letter to vaudeville, and more compellingly, conveys a thespian’s engaging behind-the-curtain viewpoint.

The enjoyment of historical fiction is to become immersed in another time and place, far removed from the modern world. While reading The Little Shadows, I could almost smell the dust in the wings of the Canadian prairie theatres and intimately knew the eccentric characters that danced and sang across its stages. I came away with a new appreciation for vaudeville performers and what they endured to bring entertainment to audiences in an age before moving pictures.

This book contains one of the most compelling sex scenes I’ve ever come across and beautifully styled prose that makes concrete the abstract feelings that we all have but struggle to put into words. For instance, one of the Avery sisters muses on love and thinks she has always “been happiest alone.” Endicott writes, “Not pretending, not folding herself small to fit in someone else’s grasp.” That line really struck at my heart and encapsulated thoughts and fears I’ve had about entering into marriage. It's not easy to convey an emotion like this, that many women must feel but are unable to communicate, even to themselves. Marina Endicott digs deep and brings a beautiful story of the past into the present day.
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3.0 out of 5 stars fascinating book Sept. 14 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Fun book about hardship, hard times and the fun of Vaudeville. The characters are well developed as is the everlasting bond of sisters
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