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The Little Shadows

3.2 of 5 stars 3.20  ·  rating details  ·  508 ratings  ·  111 reviews
The Little Shadows tells the story of three sisters making their way in the world of vaudeville before and during the First World War. Setting off to make their fortune as a singing act after the untimely death of their father, the girls, Aurora, Clover and Bella, are overseen by their fond but barely coping Mama.

The girls begin with little besides youth and hope but evolv...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published February 2nd 2012 by Random House, Inc. (first published September 27th 2011)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,084)
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Debbie
Oh. My. God. It actually took me 2 weeks to read this book. It was my own private hell. This is the story of 3 Canadian sisters' travels through early 1900's vaudeville. The author must have done extensive research on vaudeville acts pre WWI and she describes each and every one of them, ad nauseum. An editor would have been greatly appreciated and this 520+ page book should have been half the length. However once you strip away all the description of the acts the story of the 3 sisters has been...more
Jane
What a wonderful story!

It began Canada, to a cold, snowy day in 1912.

Flora Avery took her three daughters – Aurora, Clover and Bella – to an audition. She had been a vaudeville star, before her marriage to a school-teacher, and now she wanted the same for her girls.

I wondered if she was a pushy, show business mother, but she wasn’t. She was a widow, struggling to cope, and doing the best she could for her girls.

Vaudeville was hugely popular in those days, when cinema was in its infancy and telev...more
Rafaela
I can't think of this as a cohesive novel. More like a sucession of vignettes about characters that I can't sympathise with, doing things I can't relate to.

Of course. It's Vaudeville and I don't know the smallest thing about it, so obviously I wouldn't be able to relate. But still. There's a very big chunk of something missing, and I can't quite pinpoint what it is.

I do know a few things, though. This book is too big. It takes a really, really long time to get into it, and when you finally do, b...more
Maxine
The Little Shadows is a beautifully written coming-of-age tale of three sisters at the beginning of the twentieth century. At a time when moving pictures were in their infancy and television was the stuff of science fiction, vaudeville was one of the few forms of entertainment available and was hugely popular. So, when their father dies, Flora, the girls' mother decides to have them audition as a song-and-dance routine. They are not particularly talented but, thanks mainly to the eldest sister's...more
Michael
Vaudeville is a wonderous art form that has sadly long left our world. A world were stage entertainment is king and is a life that Flora wants to get her three young daughters Aurora, Clover and Belle into and will fight to the bone to have them be successful. Flora a former Vaudeville performer herself is struggling to keep the family afloat after the death of her son to pneumonia and the suicide death of her husband and now she is down to her last $20. After numerous humilating failed audition...more
Tracyk
The Little Shadows by Marina Endicott is a historical novel set in the years preceding and during World War I. It is the story of three sisters, teenagers as the story begins, who travel with their mother to support the family as a vaudeville act. The book is 527 pages long, but I was engaged in the story immediately. I loved the way the author switched back and forth between the sisters (especially) and the mother (occasionally). It took a while for the characters to grow on me, but I enjoyed a...more
Alexis
Extremely mixed feelings about this one. It is probably quite good, but I just couldn't get into it. I ended up reading a multitude of books while reading this one, which is a sign that a book is not doing something for me.

That said, one of the reasons why I didn't like it was because I LOVED "Good to a fault." I find that sometimes when I love, love, love one book by an author, it makes it more difficult for me to love other books by them. (See Lynn Coady's "The Antagonist" due to "Mean Boy" lo...more
Simone
First I would like to say kudos to Marina Endicott for receiving some very prestigious nominations being first long listed for the Giller and now in the running for the Governor General. These are very important awards and clearly many people have seen something praiseworthy in her characters and writing.

Unfortunately, I was supremely disappointed in this novel. The characters lacked depth and diversity; the sisters were uninspiring and their relationship with each other rather flat; the mother...more
Ruth Seeley
Let me begin by saying that my estimation of this book suffers from two biases. First is the fact that I read Good to a Fault earlier this year and loved its exploration of the complexity of modern life, its depth of characterization, and its choice of a messy and somewhat ambiguous ending. Second is that I am growing weary of historical fiction and annoyed by the fact that almost every major Canadian publisher has released a 'big name author' work of historical fiction this fall - Vanderhaeghe,...more
Jeanne
First “real” book with a kobo, as the first one was a short one, written as an ebook. Slightly different experience from reading a physical book but hard to define why exactly. Nevertheless, I enjoyed this book very much and will continue to use the kobo when convenient/necessary, though I think I still prefer the paper variety.

After the suicide of their father, Aurora, Clover and Belle form a vaudeville act with the help of their mother Flora (a former vaudeville star herself) in order to make...more
Mae
Basically enjoyed this book - slow, gentle read with a lot of descriptive lovely language. Enjoyed the references to familiar geographical locations and once I got going it was a good compelling story. The strength of the bond of these four women and how they took care of each other and survived in a challenging social time was interesting. Wish that we were able to give "half" measures in our ratings as I would rate this a 3.5.
Found the concept of live vaudeville in the 1900s in Western Canada...more
Pam Bustin
Damn that is one good book.
The ending had me weeping. It was perfect.

The story of three sisters, their mother and the people of their lives. vaudeville.

I love how smoothly she moves from girl to girl. I watch it, these last few days with Elephant Shoes (a novella I’m working on) in mind.

I’m not sure I understand all the little titles for the scenes/chapters or the structure as a whole - though I’m betting it is intensely “built” along those lines. I might have to study it to really appreciate th...more
Maia Caron
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 si...more
Sandie
I so wanted to love this book. Really. I'm actually giving it 2 1/2 stars. I saw the author at a Chapters event and was truly excited for this book. The main reason for the low rating is that it took me almost 3 weeks to get through this book. I normally read about one book a week. I was still half way through the book and was never really drawn into the story, or lack of I thought.
Pamela
I started out not enjoying it very much, but got caught up in the sisters' lives and what a glorius ending. It reminds me how important an ending can be, especially one that is memorable:
"Wait!" she cried. "Wait for me!"
And maybe there is just not enough novels of Canadian historical significance.

NOW Magazine review:
I have been known to mock the Governor General’s fiction jury when it appears to worry more about its mandate than about the quality of the work. Because the GGs want to honour the...more
Lindsie
The little shadows of the title are three sisters who are working vaudeville in the 1910s. In the US and Canada. More in the US, but a lot of Canada, too. I like the portrayal of the Canadian towns and cities visited (Calgary, Qu’appelle) because I don’t often get to visit Canadian cities in the old times. (Though I’ve read a couple – Vancouver and Man Game - that I really enjoyed so you’d think I’d seek out more instead of just stumbling on them randomly...)

I was quite happy to be out on the va...more
Shelleyrae at Book'd Out
Having been impressed by Good to a Fault I was delighted to discover The Little Shadows on my doorstep one afternoon (Courtesy Allen & Unwin Australia}. The premise was particularity inviting, promising a backstage glimpse at the life of vaudeville performers in the beginning on 1900's.
Marina Endicott lifts the curtain to reveal Aurora, Clover, Belle and their mother auditioning to join a vaudeville house. The Avery sisters are young and pretty with sweet voices and their mother, once a per...more
Sharon
I was expecting this to be wonderful because many people have said it is, I'm disappointed and in fact I'm sending it back to the library only 1/3rd read. (Glad I didn't buy it). It's very long and I just don't want to take up any more of my time on it. I can see a lot of good things in this book - the writing, the insights, the characters. The three sisters are particularly fine. Lovely people, all different from each other, all intelligent and talented with varying degrees of innocence and wis...more
Susan
This is a mammoth novel about three sisters, Aurora, Clover and Bella and their mother Flora, on the vaudeville circuit from 1912 until we leave them in 1917. Flora was living as a housewife, but after the death of her husband and young son, she has decided to take her girls on the road. The book begins with the young girls auditioning in a theatre when Aurora is just 16 and the youngest, Bella, only 13. There are jobs cancelled, hopes raised only to be dashed, working for experience with no pay...more
Melissa
****Please note I won this book as a Goodreads Giveaway*******


I feel somewhat bad for only rating this book as okay. I feel guilty that it took me so long to finish reading it, especially after winning it as a giveaway. I thought this book would be more fun than it was, being about the vaudeville era.

The main disappointment was the plodding pace of the book. I put this down after barely a hundred pages to read other things. It dragged on, and didn't really catch my interest until somewhere aroun...more
Gail Amendt
I love historical fiction, and this book does exactly what historical fiction should do, both entertains and educates. The fact that it takes place largely in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Montana, in places I have visited, makes it even more appealing to me. I was hooked right from the opening chapter, which takes place at the Empress Theatre in Fort Macleod, which is still standing and which I visited last summer. And it explores the world of vaudeville, about which I have always been curious but...more
Richard Thompson
I took us a bit to get into the book. The characters didn't come into focus right away. And some of the language seemed a bit awkward especially read aloud.

But once we connected with the characters and the rhythm of the book we were thoroughly hooked.

Flora Avery, a former vaudevillian, is left widowed with three teenage daughters — Aurora, Clover and Bella — and sets off to help them become established on the stage. This is not the New York or London big-time; this is a provincial circuit in Al...more
Erika
I loved two of Marina Endicott's other books - Open Arms and Good To a Fault. They're set on the Canadian prairies and yet aren't your typical 'glorify the prairies' books, with their depth of character and interesting plot lines - both surprising and familiarly prairie like. The plot line in Little Shadows is more surprising than familiarly prairie like. Set in the 1920s, three sisters, whose teacher father has just committed suicide in his small town teacherage, form a singing vaudeville act w...more
Laura
This is a very intricate story and it took me some time to get through. At first I really struggled to stay interested in the characters. (I actually put it down for a while and read another book in between.) Like some of the previous reviews, I had a hard time telling Clover and Bella apart in the beginning. I kept thinking I would ultimately not finish it and found myself saying 'ok ten more pages, I'll give it ten more pages'. Eventually I found myself getting attached to the sisters, strange...more
Marleen
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 o...more
Marianne
MY REVIEW
A beautiful poetic novel of what the vaudeville or theatre might have been in historic western Canada and the northwest U.S.A., in particularly Montana. The story follows three girls and their mother after the death of the father as they go into the world their mother knew before she met their father. Each scene and each character is portrayed in vivid colors, both their good attributes as well as the eccentric. Although i don’t know much about the world of actors either then or now, it...more
Pat Bourke
The wonderful world of vaudeville has always fascinated me, and I'm only sad that Marina Endicott's book did such a fantastic job of taking me into that world that I felt bereft when the book ended. My good friend YA author Karen Krossing (The Yo-yo Prophet) has taught me a lot about writing from an organizing principle, and I thoroughly appreciated Endicott's mining of the vaudeville conventions in the way she presents the stories of the three Avery girls and their mother in a four-act structur...more
Kate
Endicott writes beautifully, delivering a rich, sensory portrayal of time and place. The story had a graceful sense of symmetry about it and the ending, while not exactly happy, was satisfying and suited the characters that she created. Importantly, it reads as a natural sort of period piece – not the kind that bombards you with random details designed to demonstrate exactly how much research the author did.

However (and there is always a however) I found this book quite difficult to get though....more
Vicki
Marina Endicott has woven her inestimable writerly magic again into the story of the on and offstage trials, tribulations and triumphs of the Avery sisters, vaudeville performers circa World War I. The sisters waste no time stealing your heart, rapidly followed by a disarming cast of vivid supporting characters, from family to fellow performers to others driving the vibrant theatrical scene of that era. The Little Shadows is a book that you'll be tempted to consume in great gulps, with its engro...more
Manda
No... just no. Too long, characters have no depth, every vaudeville act the author could get her hands on was painstakingly repeated word for word (emphasis on pain). I read it to the end, I wanted something good to happen - it never did (I mean with the writing not the plot). Basically for me this was a waste of time. For book of 500+ pages it fell totally flat which is sad because it could have been so good.
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Write Reads Podcast: Write Reads Episode #2 is now available! 1 2 Dec 10, 2012 10:26AM  
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Marina Endicott was born in Golden, BC, and grew up with three sisters and a brother, mostly in Nova Scotia and Toronto. She worked as an actor and director before going to England, where she began to write fiction. After London she went west to Saskatoon, where she was dramaturge at the Saskatchewan Playwrights Centre for many years before going farther west to Mayerthorpe, Alberta; she now lives...more
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“It's been a great gig. In this roistering life there a multitude of partings and meetings-
I will look for you along the way-”
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