Simone's Reviews > The Little Shadows

The Little Shadows by Marina Endicott
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's review
Sep 19, 2011

it was ok
bookshelves: canadian, historical-fiction, a-life-lived

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's back story and the death of their father and little brother were underdeveloped. The secondary characters were too flighty, Endicott's portrayal of them felt was lacking in scope and tangible experiences. Ultimately, I felt no emotional connection to any of the characters.

While I believe the book was thoroughly researched as was evident in the rather blunt historical references to songs, acts and theaters the book lacked the "a feel" of the decade. I wasn't completely immersed in another era, and not for a lack of accuracy, but I think a lack of character diversity and development. Each character seemed cut and dry, there was no building around them of friends, family, past, present, future, to give any sense of how people were living. I realize this seems absurd given what the entire book was supposed to be about, but this is just my opinion. Many of the theater managers blended into one another, I didn't care about them even as villains. (view spoiler) Everyone had an air of overacting and flamboyancy that I deeply disliked because it seemed an easy way to write nothing substantial on their character.

Another thing I found hard to grasp was how their mother and father even ended up together. I don't need an author to hit me over the head or anything, but when your suggestions are so contradictory that a flash back or longer explanation would be suitable, please don't tread lightly around the subject. Their father's suicide doesn't make any sense and, frankly, I didn't even care about it especially after the 10th or so mention of it. We aren't really given any understanding of their lives before Vaudeville - school, friends, family, boyfriends? So really as an outsider looking in there's no emotional strings for me to grab hold of besides the fact that he was their father and every little girl loves their father. Endicott also mentions how their father loved the girls' singing, but he seems to have abhorred vaudeville which was their mother's passion. It seems strange to me that she would give up vaudeville, even if it was a difficult life, for that of a quiet farm wife. Love at first sight to me is a scape goat. There has to be more. It is also strange that she would take the girls into vaudeville immediately after her husbands death when it wouldn't have been something that he wanted for them. It seems an insulting really, given the way Endicott has written the relationship with their father.

The mother I found a weak character. She seemed kind of flaky and naive. Although she loved her daughters she wasn't ruthless in the way that the nature of vaudeville seemed to call for.

I could go on. Some of what I have to say I find hard to articulate though. I feel as though all the ground layer is there, but even being over 500 pages, nothing was said. The characters stumble through relationships that have no real build up. It just seems like a series of this happened, then this happened, then we went here. Endicott just seemed to be skimming the surface of a very deep pool.

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Quotes Simone Liked

Marina Endicott
“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-”
Marina Endicott, The Little Shadows

Reading Progress

September 19, 2011 – Shelved
September 30, 2011 – Started Reading
October 2, 2011 –
page 71
October 6, 2011 –
page 221
October 8, 2011 –
page 248
October 10, 2011 –
page 295
October 13, 2011 –
page 321
October 17, 2011 –
page 427
October 22, 2011 – Finished Reading
January 3, 2012 – Shelved as: canadian
January 3, 2012 – Shelved as: a-life-lived
January 3, 2012 – Shelved as: historical-fiction

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