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The Little Shadows

3.24  ·  Rating Details  ·  652 Ratings  ·  132 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
Paperback, 320 pages
Published February 2nd 2012 by Random House, Inc. (first published September 27th 2011)
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Feb 23, 2012 Jane rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 04, 2012 Debbie rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 29, 2012 Maxine rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 20, 2013 Michael rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 25, 2015 Rafaela rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read2013, x-owned
[There was a review here. It's gone now.]
Dec 19, 2014 Tracyk rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Oct 17, 2015 Krista rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: can-con, 2015
What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night
the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime
the little shadow which runs across the grass
and loses itself in the sunset.


The Little Shadows opens in 1912 as Flora – recent widow and former vaudeville star, down to her last twenty dollars – ushers her three teenage daughters to an audition at the Empress Theatre in Fort Macleod. Having been trained in song and dance by their mother for their entire lives, the girls believe themselves r
Nov 16, 2014 Lori rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very enjoyable book. Captivated and enchanted as I was with Marina Endicott's earlier book, "Good to a Fault", I was excited to read The Little Shadows. Set in 1912-17 in western Canada and focused on the Vaudeville phenomenon of that time, This story revolves around the experiences and relationships of four women: Flora a new widow and former Vaudeville performer, and her three teenage daughters: Aurora, Clover and Bella. Switching seamlessly back and forth through the different Points of Vie ...more
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
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
Sep 17, 2013 Mae rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2013
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
Pam Bustin
Aug 06, 2012 Pam Bustin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 18, 2015 Charli rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I loathe to give a book a one star rating, but as I only got 166 pages into 525 pages before I gave up what else was there to do? This book was incredibly boring, I could only bring myself to read 2 or 3 pages at a time before giving up. None of the jokes made sense, descriptions of acts were long winded and so heavy in detail that they bored you to tears. Telling 1912 vaudeville jokes to an audience that a) frequently makes dick jokes and doesn't blink an eyelid and b) watches 3D movies not vau ...more
Oct 31, 2011 Sandie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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.
3.5 stars

It is 1912. Aurora, Clover and Belle are sisters and their father is gone. Their mother used to work in vaudeville, so she decides to teach the girls and set up an act so they can all make a living. The girls are 13, 15, and 16 and their mother, at the same time as teaching them to perform, is also trying to protect them as they travel and try to find theatres to perform in. The book follows them up to 1917.

I liked this, but it didn't quite live up to what I expected. There was a lot
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
Sophie Beatrix Petticrew
I couldn't finish this bbok, it just dragged on a bit. I don't actually know what the plot was supposed to be, if there even was one. I did enjoy the language used in the book but other than that it was all a bit boring.
Jul 10, 2014 Lindsie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jane Glen
Jun 04, 2015 Jane Glen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I noticed that many readers found this book too long and too boring to even finish. Although I would agree that at times there was a lot of detail and repetition which resulted in some tedium, overall it was a book that I really did want to finish and quite enjoyed. It was strongly evocative of time and place as it followed the lives of 3 sisters and their mother as they turned to vaudeville to eke out a living. I have never read anything about this particular era and found it fascinating; even ...more
Maia Caron
Jan 13, 2015 Maia Caron rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
Mar 16, 2012 Susan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
****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
Gail Amendt
Jun 05, 2012 Gail Amendt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 06, 2014 Richard Thompson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-alouds, best1012
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
Apr 07, 2013 Erika rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 05, 2013 Laura rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 05, 2012 Marleen rated it it was amazing
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
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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
More about Marina Endicott...

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