City of Flickering Light

City of Flickering Light

by Juliette Fay

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Overview

Juliette Fay—“one of the best authors of women’s fiction” (Library Journal)—transports us back to the Golden Age of Hollywood and the raucous Roaring Twenties, as three friends struggle to earn their places among the stars of the silent screen—perfect for fans of La La Land and Rules of Civility.

It’s July 1921, “flickers” are all the rage, and Irene Van Beck has just declared her own independence by jumping off a moving train to escape her fate in a traveling burlesque show. When her friends, fellow dancer Millie Martin and comedian Henry Weiss, leap after her, the trio finds their way to the bright lights of Hollywood with hopes of making it big in the burgeoning silent film industry.

At first glance, Hollywood in the 1920s is like no other place on earth—iridescent, scandalous, and utterly exhilarating—and the three friends yearn for a life they could only have dreamed of before. But despite the glamour and seduction of Tinseltown, success doesn’t come easy, and nothing can prepare Irene, Millie, and Henry for the poverty, temptation, and heartbreak that lie ahead. With their ambitions challenged by both the men above them and the prejudice surrounding them, their friendship is the only constant through desperate times, as each struggles to find their true calling in an uncertain world. What begins as a quest for fame and fortune soon becomes a collective search for love, acceptance, and fulfillment as they navigate the backlots and stage sets where the illusions of the silver screen are brought to life.

With her “trademark wit and grace” (Randy Susan Meyers, author of The Murderer’s Daughters), Juliette Fay crafts another radiant and fascinating historical novel as thrilling as the bygone era of Hollywood itself.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781501192951
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication date: 04/16/2019
Sold by: SIMON & SCHUSTER
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 34,258
File size: 3 MB

About the Author

Juliette Fay is the bestselling author of five novels, including the USA TODAY bestseller The Tumbling Turner Sisters. A graduate of Boston College and Harvard University, she lives in Massachusetts. Visit her at JulietteFay.com.

Read an Excerpt

City of Flickering Light




  • Hollywood was built by women and Jews—those were people not allowed in respectable professions. It was not taken seriously as a business, so women and Jews could get into it.

    Cari Beauchamp, Hollywood historian

    Blood raced through Irene’s veins like a brushfire, thrumming in her ears as she sat in the train car waiting for just the right moment. The window to her new life—or newest life—would open only briefly before it shut with a defeated thump.

    She rubbed the spot on her hip where the awful flag costume had dug in. Mr. Chandler always ordered their costumes a size too small because “burlesque patrons like them tight.” The Fourth of July had been a week ago, and the irony of seven days wearing the stars and stripes, symbol of freedom, strapped around her like a titillating little straitjacket was not lost on Irene.

    Independence Day, she thought anxiously. Better a week late than never.

    “Now?” whispered Millie, her fingers inching along the leather bench seat toward Irene’s thigh, as if Irene were some sort of rabbit’s foot to rub for good luck. Irene nudged them away.

    Henry’s eyes were on them, his gaze boring into Irene from his rear-facing seat, through the dust motes swirling between them in the merciless southwest sunlight. He cocked his head almost imperceptibly, a what’s-going-on look.

    Irene shrugged, willing her face to relax into some facsimile of composure.

    Barney’s massive frame suddenly filled the aisle beside them. “Ladies,” he said, reptilian eyes scanning the landscape of their bodies. “And gentleman.” His gaze went dull as it took in Henry, the lowest paid among them. Irene knew it was more than that; it was jealousy. Henry’s good looks were made for photographs—thick dark hair and large brown eyes set off by pale unblemished skin, a study in contrasts. All the girls loved Henry, their well-mannered rascal.

    None of them loved Barney, Mr. Chandler’s right-hand man, as he liked to say. Right-hand hatchet man, they whispered privately. Irene had seen him take a girl by the hair and hit her till she dropped like a sack of laundry.

    “Why’re your bags under the seat?” he demanded. “Oughta be in the baggage car.”

    Irene sighed, feigning mild annoyance. “No room.”

    “We don’t mind,” said Millie. “Makes it easier to put our feet up.” She set the heel of her t-strap pump onto the protruding case and crossed the other leg over, her dress slipping up above her knee. Her blue eyes went coy as she tugged the thin cotton fabric of her dress down a little, the lacy edge of her slip still perfectly visible. Barney’s eyes took in that distant shoreline, a scurvy sailor hungry for a decent meal.

    “Tickets?” said Irene.

    “Now, don’t go and lose them.” Barney tugged them out of the pocket of his vest, spotted with whatever meal he’d last eaten. Something with gravy, it looked like. When Millie reached for hers, he pulled his hand back. “You gonna lose it?” he said. “?’Course you are. Ain’t got the sense God give a goat.”

    Irene froze. If he held Millie’s ticket, what would they do? She couldn’t leave Millie behind, now that she’d promised to take her. Gone soft already, she chided herself, and she was barely twenty-one. Uncharacteristically, she’d felt a strange need for company.

    Well, you’ll have company now, won’t you? All the way to hell.

    Millie tittered stupidly, even for Millie. “Give it to Irene to hold for me, then,” she said. “She never lost a thing in her life.”

    Barney handed over the tickets, and Irene had to keep her fingers from gripping them too tightly. Before moving on to the next row of young girls in his herd, the huge man tossed another ticket at Henry, who had to snatch it from the air before it fell to his feet.

    He was still eyeing Irene, and she gave him a sharp look. He glanced away, sufficiently cowed, and fiddled with the strap of his rucksack, which she knew held only a few personal items and a tattered notebook of jokes—mostly bad ones, if his comedy act was any indication.

    There it was, the faint shushing sound Irene had been dreaming of and fretting about for weeks. The engine ground into gear, and she counted, just as she had at the last stop and the one before that, to get the timing down. Timing was everything in life. She’d learned that early on.

    Thirteen . . . fourteen . . . fifteen.

    As the engine strained to move countless tons of steel, the red sandstone of the Flagstaff, Arizona, train depot seemed to shudder in her view. The conductor stood at the other end of the car, scolding the porter. Irene could barely hear him over the groaning of the engine. “ . . . under their seats! . . . supposed to be in baggage! . . .” He was shrunken and white haired with a mustache that trailed down off his jowls like curtain pulls. He glared up at the young black man, who shook his head—in truthful innocence, Irene knew. She herself had told him the baggage porter said the car was full, and they should stow their suitcases beneath them. The conductor poked the young man’s chest now and motioned for him to get the cases.

    The wheels hadn’t begun to turn yet. Something was holding up the train, and if they left too soon, Mr. Chandler would send Barney after them.

    The young porter wasn’t moving though. She could see the anger flashing in his eyes. Things were changing. The younger Negroes who’d fought in the Great War didn’t come home to be pushed around as they had been before.

    Fight back, Irene silently urged the porter. Refuse him.

    But before her thoughts could find their mark, the young man was making his way toward them. There was a screeching sound, metal on metal, and the car lurched forward.

    “Now!” said Irene, and Millie began tugging at her case.

    “It’s stuck!” cried Millie.

    “Damn thing’s overstuffed,” Irene muttered as her case swung wildly in her grip. “For godsake, pull harder!”

    “Where are you—” started Henry.

    “Quitting!” Irene hissed under her breath at Henry as the train began to roll, slowly picking up speed.

    “Please!” Millie begged the porter who’d made his way to them. “We’ve got to get out!”

    The young man shot a look over his shoulder at the conductor now barreling down the aisle toward them. He turned back and gave Millie’s suitcase a hard yank. “You go on now,” he said, handing it to her. “And good luck to you. All the luck in the world.” He stepped back into the aisle, effectively blocking the conductor.

    Irene ran in the opposite direction, case banging against her knees and the elbows of passengers as she flew by them. “Hey now!” they cried out. “Watch it!” Through the dust-speckled windows, the landscape was moving, low buildings giving way to fields and distant pines. She nearly collapsed into the door of the car, grabbing the long metal handle and tugging upward. The door flew sideways with a clank just as Millie fell into her. They staggered a moment and headed down the steps. The train was moving faster now, and Irene felt herself hesitate. If she broke her legs, then where would she be?

    A sudden shove from behind and she was flying through the air. She collapsed in the hog-mown brush by the train tracks, stiff shafts of weeds poking into her knees and hands. There was a shriek, and Irene looked up in time to see Millie tumble down the railroad bed ahead of her. In another moment, a black mop of hair bobbed up out of the weeds, and Millie let out a whoop. “Ireeeeene!” she howled. “We did it!”

    They watched the train recede into the landscape, and Irene felt the warm piney air fill her lungs, as if it were the first full breath she’d taken in years.

    Just as the horizon had nearly swallowed the train whole, something else jumped off, a large, dark-colored blob that flopped to the ground and rolled into the brush.

    Barney!

    “Run!” Irene screamed. “Millie, run!”

    They bolted, cases forgotten in the jeopardy of the moment. They knew what happened to girls who tried to leave before Mr. Chandler was ready to let them go. He set Barney on them with strict instructions to leave no visible marks. Mr. Chandler said bruises were a distraction to the men in the audience and encouraged the girls to comport themselves with care. The only place Barney was allowed to hit them was their heads, where hair would cover any lumps or bruises.

    Irene and Millie skittered to a stand of pines, chests heaving as they gasped for breath, and hid behind a thick tree trunk. Irene peered out to see how close behind them he was but saw only the golden crowns of waist-high weeds gently swaying in the noon sunlight.

    “Think he’s dead?” Millie wheezed from behind her.

    “Maybe just knocked out.”

    “Long enough for us to go back and get the bags?”

    Who knew? Either way they needed those suitcases. They wouldn’t get far wearing the same clothes day after day. Irene looked around. There was a dead branch on the ground, about three feet long and thick enough to do some damage.

    “You get the bags,” she said, hefting it as they crept forward. “I’ll keep an eye out.”

    Millie grinned. “They sure don’t teach this kind of thing in finishing school.”

    “I didn’t go to finishing school.”

    “And you can thank your lucky stars for that!”

    They inched through the grass and came upon Irene’s suitcase first. Her uncle had bought it in some Podunk town in the middle of nowhere. That’s where she and her sister had performed, mostly, though they had made it to Portland, Oregon, once and played at the Pantages. Vaudeville had its seamy side, but Irene had soon learned it was a much kinder business than burlesque.

    “Mine’s up a ways.” Millie headed down the track, closer to where Barney had fallen.

    “Let’s leave it,” said Irene. “We can share clothes.”

    “It’s not just clothes,” Millie said, hunching a little lower as she inched toward her case.

    “What do you mean, ‘not just clothes’?”

    “I mean there are other things, too.”

    “What other things?”

    “Things a girl needs, Irene.”

    Irene shook her head. These were the kinds of conversations they had, Irene trying to get to the point, Millie saying whatever came into her head, whether it was germane or not. Nevertheless there was something about Millie that made Irene want to line up next to her as they waited to go onstage or room with her when they arrived at a new town. She had something the other girls lacked, and it had taken a while for Irene to put her finger on it. But one day, as Millie leaned her chin on Irene’s shoulder, pointed to a picture of Hawaii in the magazine Irene was reading, and said they should save up the money to go, Irene had figured it out: hope for the future.

    The future can seem like a shadow, nothing but a trick of the light, when you’re caught in a situation with virtually no escape. Irene often warned herself against daydreaming. Things had gone so unbearably wrong for her that hope seemed like a radical proposition. But it was like that picture of Hawaii, with its crystalline sand and turquoise waters: you told yourself to look away, but you found yourself peeking at it all the same. And then there was Millie, who seemed to have hope enough for both of them.

    Chandler’s Follies was a thing with no future, only the leaden now. He rigged it so you could never make any real dough. After he’d paid you, then taken back what you owed him for the hotel room and the meals, the scant costume he rented you, and the fees he charged for even the smallest sundries like shampoo or a hairbrush, you were lucky to break even.

    “I take care of everything to keep you safe,” he’d say as he detailed the evils of the world, which generally began and ended with prostitution. There was a perplexing elegance to him that lulled you into believing the most nonsensical things. He drank tea every morning from a silver tea set that he claimed had been brought from England by his grandfather, a younger son of a viscount. A man like that seemed to make sense simply by virtue of his noble bearing.

    He might require you to strip naked every night and shake your what-have-yous in front of strangers, but he would protect you from the degradation of having your body violated. For many girls, whose prospects had dwindled to one or the other, this seemed like a fair bargain. You would give up all control of your life in order to remain safe from the ultimate sin.

    It was a strange thing because little by little you came to realize there was nothing safe about Chandler. If you challenged him or stepped out of line in any way—came in late for curfew, flirted with the customers, or implied you might like to try a different line of work—an example would be made of you in front of the other girls, who were forced to watch as Barney grabbed a fistful of your hair and punched you in the head any number of times. And as you stood there in front of them with Barney’s knuckles cracking against your skull, you wanted nothing more than to apologize for subjecting them to the sight of it.

    “We can’t chance it!” Irene hissed as Millie crept farther up the tracks.

    “Trust me, it’s worth the risk,” Millie whispered over her shoulder.

    This only served to unnerve Irene even more. What in God’s name could it be? Because none of them owned a thing. Chandler made sure of that. Whatever little memento or jewelry you came with, he took “for safekeeping.”

    The suitcase was only a few feet away when they heard a groan like the sound of a wounded buffalo. The girls froze. Irene grabbed Millie’s arm to pull her away, but Millie wrenched free and lurched forward, diving for the case. Irene raised the branch.

    The figure sat up. Not Barney. Not by a long shot.

    “Henry, what on earth!” Irene said and flung the branch to the dirt.

    “What on earth, yourself,” he muttered, rubbing the back of his head. “You jump off a moving train and you don’t even warn me?”

    “You scared us half to death!” said Millie as they strode through the bramble toward him.

    “Well, you’ll pardon me if I’m not sorry.” He got up onto his knees and searched for his rucksack. “And don’t worry, you won’t have to spend one more minute with me. I’m heading out on my own.” He located it and hiked a strap over his shoulder.

    “Well, of course you’re not. You’re coming with us!” Millie said.

    “I am not. Not after what you did.”

    Irene put her hands on her hips. “And what’s that?”

    “Left me without so much as a fare-thee-well!”

    “We couldn’t tell you, don’t you see? If even a word of it got back to Chandler—”

    Henry threw his arms into the air. “Oh, yes and I would just saunter up to that old bastard and say, ‘So I hear we’ll be bidding adieu to your two prettiest girls!’?”

    Millie’s face went coy at the compliment. “Henry, that’s sweet.”

    “No, it is not sweet!” he said. “It’s awful!”

    “Henry,” said Irene, the bruises and cuts on her leg and hands starting to ache. “I couldn’t take the chance. I wasn’t even going to bring Millie—”

    Millie’s face fell. “You weren’t?”

    “Then why did you?”

    “She’s . . . we’re just . . .”

    “Friends,” said Millie.

    Yes, I suppose we are, thought Irene, though she hadn’t had a friend in years. She didn’t even know that much about Millie—the normal things like where she’d grown up or how she’d ended up stripping. Nevertheless they’d just jumped off a moving train together; if Irene wanted to deny there was a bond between them, that case had just gotten much harder to make.

    As for Henry, Irene wouldn’t have characterized them as friends exactly, but there was an unspoken affinity between them that mostly showed itself in the crossword puzzles they helped each other with between shows and the way their eyes seemed to find each other when Chandler was giving one of his many warnings about impertinence. They didn’t talk about anything more lofty or personal than whether they’d been to a particular town before or how lumpy the mattresses were in their rooms. But they’d laughed together—he did have a great sense of humor. She was the one he always came to when trying out a new joke.

    And he was kind. There had been far too little of that in her life these last three years.

    “I should have told you,” she said to him now. “We’re friends, too.”

  • Reading Group Guide

    This readers group guide for City of Flickering Light includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.
    .
    Introduction

    When Irene Van Beck jumps off a moving train to escape her harrowing life in burlesque, she sets in motion a series of life-changing events for herself and her friends Millie Martin and Henry Weiss. The unlikely trio has high hopes of making it big in Hollywood, but the road to stardom is arduous. The friends have only one another to turn to as they face brutality, poverty, and near hopelessness in an unfamiliar city. In the end, all three create lives that are rich in success and modern flair, but not before they learn invaluable lessons about love, loyalty, and self-acceptance.

    Topics and Questions for Discussion

    1. Irene, Millie, and Henry each have their own particular shortcomings to grapple with over the course of the story. How do they compare to those of the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz? Are they able to overcome these difficulties in the end, and if so, how?

    2. Each of the main characters has been separated from their families in some hostile or tragic manner. Though they don’t know one another very well at the beginning of the novel, Millie claims Henry with the words “you are ours” by its end. How were they able to create this unconventional “family” so quickly and securely? How do you think this bond will impact baby Ivy as she grows up?

    3. When Millie is raped in Chapter 13, Irene ponders how she was raised to think that it only happens to “bad girls.” Neither Millie nor Irene ever considers reporting it. Did this aspect of 1920s Hollywood life surprise you, or was it expected? Do you think Millie and Irene handled the situation as best as their status allowed? What might you have done differently?

    4. Were you surprised by Eva Crown’s statement in Chapter 34 that “there are a lot of women directors,” given that there are relatively few today? It’s true that women did enjoy more power in the industry’s early days than they currently do. Do you think there could ever have been a Hollywood #MeToo movement in the 1920s?

    5. In Chapter 16, when Agnes offers Millie heroin, did this humanize Agnes for you or make you dislike her even more? Does her pain explain her behavior? Were you surprised by the easy availability of drugs?

    6. The road to success is harrowing, yet even in the darkest moments of the story there are glimmers of humanity, such as when Eva Crown gives Irene the book on screenwriting. What are other examples of hope and generosity you find in the novel? In the end, does the portrayal of 1920s Hollywood feel optimistic? Do you think it’s easier or harder to break into filmmaking today?

    7. Henry’s sexual orientation isn’t revealed until halfway through the novel; in fact, he tries to hide it even from himself. Was he able to hide his sexuality from you, the reader, or did you guess early on that he might be gay? How does Henry eventually come to terms with being in love with another man?

    8. Each chapter in City of Flickering Light features a quote from a famous silent film star, director, cameraman, or screenwriter. One of these is John Barrymore’s: “Happiness often sneaks through a door you didn’t know you left open.” How does this quote serve as a theme for the novel as a whole? Which was your favorite quote and why?

    9. Which character did you identify with the most? Which character did you like the most? Are they the same?

    10. Which stars of today remind you of characters in the novel?

    Enhance Your Book Club

    1. Host a movie night with your book club and watch a silent film together. A few suggestions:

    Beyond the Rocks, starring Rudolph Valentino and Gloria Swanson

    Robin Hood, starring Douglas Fairbanks

    Stella Maris, starring Mary Pickford (written by her friend Frances Marion)

    The Kid, starring Charlie Chaplin

    Hell’s Hinges, starring William S. Hart

    The Sheik, starring Rudolph Valentino (See what made women swoon!)

    Have each person make up a silent film star name for themselves. You could also watch the thirteen-part documentary Hollywood to learn more about this bygone era, but that will take multiple nights!

    2. In Chapter 28, Dan offers Irene greenthread tea, a traditional Navajo beverage, to soothe her. The simplicity and kindness of this act, coupled with Dan’s patience and quiet strength, contributes to Irene’s falling in love with him. Purchase some greenthread tea for your book club (available online at various sites, including https://www.slowfoodusa.org/ark-item/greenthread-tea). Over tea, talk about a simple gesture or moment that made you feel loved.

    3. Read The Vanishing American by Zane Grey, the popular novel that sparked the fight between Irene and Dan. Then watch the silent film version with Richard Dix. Does this help you better understand why Dan had such a strong reaction to Irene’s script?

    4. Talk about the novel with the author! Juliette Fay is happy to discuss the novel by Skype or other video format with groups of five or more, subject to availability. To schedule, contact her at www.juliettefay.com/for-book-groups/book-group-chat-request/

    Customer Reviews

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    The City of Flickering Light 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 16 reviews.
    Anonymous 3 months ago
    started+out+entertaining%2C+turned+into+story+that+used+all+the+cliches%0Acouldnt+finish+reading+it
    gaele 3 months ago
    Millie, Irene and Henry have been working the Burlesque circuit and have tired of the constant traveling, poor pay and an abusive boss. The story actually starts with them bailing out and jumping from a moving train – so apparently anything is better than staying! Arriving in Hollywood, they find a boarding house – but need to earn money for rooms to let. Henry was the first to get a job – he’s picked out of the crowd sitting outside the studio gates to be an extra. Irene, with her skill as a typist is the second to find work – she’s working on scripts and making changes – all of which spur on her own hidden talent for writing. Lastly there is Millie – the youngest of the trio and the least able to fend for herself in the world. Naïve, beautiful and not exactly the most clever, Irene and Henry are forever trying to protect and take care of Millie – something she really needs as she is quickly falling prey to ALL of the pitfalls in Hollywood. What’s truly amusing about this story is that there is nothing new to the pitfalls and problems in Hollywood: superficial people with few morals, sexual predation, abusive treatment, homophobia, lack of diversity and even drugs were frequent players in the game then and now. What Fay has done, however, is given us three characters who are desperately trying to NOT lose their friendship and bonds as they chase their dreams – and struggle through the challenges. Frequent quotes from the time, and references to other more ‘famous’ names of the day add a sense of ‘place’ to the story, and helped to mitigate the rather expected events to come. Overall, this was a clever read made more intriguing by the author’s creation of characters that we want to cheer on, and hope the best for. Their refusal to let go of the relationship with one another, even when occasionally stretched beyond patience, as their initial dreams are tempered by reality and struggles was clever and kept me reading on as we see changes, good and bad, for them all. I received an eArc copy of the title from the publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
    DragonNimbus 13 days ago
    This was a great book for many reasons. It was a fun era to read about, and I always find Hollywood exciting. The story is very pro-diversity - gay, straight, Native American, Jewish, rich, poor; and very positive on all accounts even though the characters were not always treated fairly or kindly. The story takes place in the 1920's. It begins with three friends fleeing a burlesque show... Irene - smart and streetwise; gorgeous, silly Millie, and handsome, kind Henry. They are all headed to Hollywood for work and to escape the squalor they found themselves in when tragedies in their lives led them separately to the burlesque. Once they made it to LA, Henry finds work in costuming, which leads to more opportunity and success. He helps Irene get a position in the the typing pool but takes a chance and ends up writing story ideas and eventually directing. Millie, anxious to please but not very wise in the ways of the world, finds herself in a horrible situation. This was bad enough, but she lives in a time when women were treated like dolls and wannabe actresses were expected to provide more than an audition to break into the business. Millie is able to recover with the help of Irene and Henry. The three friends stick together through success and failures, drift away then return to help when needed. They remain loyal to each other in a setting of glamour and glitz that is not always welcoming to people who are different.
    Fredreeca2001 27 days ago
    Irene, Millie and Henry are part of a burlesque show. They are each wanting OUT. So…Yes…they jump from a train. And boy do their adventures begin. They head to Hollywood determined to make it in the “flickers”. Millie and Irene start out waiting on the benches all day hoping to be chosen as extras. Henry starts in wardrobe. Believe me….this is not where they stay! I have to say, these are three of the best characters ever. They each have their strengths and their weaknesses. They each have different trials and tribulations. But they all have each other’s backs. Henry is the first to get a job and he keeps the girls going in money. The girls are literally living in squalor. Then things slowly start to change for each of them. I loved The Tumbling Turner Sisters. You can read my review here. To me, this book is not as good as The Tumbling Turner Sisters. BUT, it is still a fantastic read. I felt this one was a little slow in places. That does not take away from this story at all though. This is a tale about hard work, achieving your dreams and what best friends really should be. I learned so much about old Hollywood and what people did to get into the movies. Plus, what they did to keep their name clean. Very fascinating!
    Aqswr 28 days ago
    Three friends escape a crushing burlesque workplace and seek fame and fortune in 1920’s Hollywood. They carry virtually nothing with them except their youth and endless belief in their future. Along the way to that future, they experience everything that can go wrong in Hollywood: date rape, easy availability of drugs, unemployment, and hard living. But this tale is a valentine to the movies and like those early flicks, it will end well, whether it makes sense for the story or not. I received my copy from the publisher through NetGalley
    Aqswr 28 days ago
    Three friends escape a crushing burlesque workplace and seek fame and fortune in 1920’s Hollywood. They carry virtually nothing with them except their youth and endless belief in their future. Along the way to that future, they experience everything that can go wrong in Hollywood: date rape, easy availability of drugs, unemployment, and hard living. But this tale is a valentine to the movies and like those early flicks, it will end well, whether it makes sense for the story or not. I received my copy from the publisher through NetGalley
    brf1948 29 days ago
    City of Flickering Light gives us an authentic, colorful and entertaining picture of Los Angeles and Hollywood in the years following the First World War. We follow the lives of several actors, writers, and directors as they become commonly known in the early days of the west coast film community. The author has an afterword that I found very informative and wish I had read first, as she explains the history of the buildings she has used extensively in her story and the characters who were based loosely on real Hollywood icons. This is a story of personalities who dared to be different, who fit into and expanded the talents and influences of movies on life in America. It is a microcosm of that place, that era, that talent that colored the world. It is a novel I am happy to recommend to friends and family. This is a book to savor and perhaps read again. I received a free electronic copy of this historical novel from Netgalley, Juliette Fay, and Gallery, Threshold, Pocket Books. I have read this novel of my own volition. This review reflects my honest opinion of this work.
    bookluvr35SL 3 months ago
    Irene, Millie and Henry jump off a moving train to escape the traveling burlesque show they were with. The three head to Hollywood with the dream of being in the "flickers". Thus begins the ups and downs of the life of someone trying to get into the business.. Henry is the first to get a job, working in the costume department at one of the studios. Irene and Millie spend countless days hanging around the studio with others who hope to be "extras". Irene gets a break when she joins the typing pool, typing up scripts, and Millie finally gets her break when an actress gets hurt and has to be rushed to the hospital and they need a replacement.. It is Hollywood in 1921, and they are on their way to making it big. This story reeled me in from the beginning (no pun intended), and I couldn't put it down. I felt like I was actually there, among the biggest stars of that time, watching it all unfold. I loved the book, and highly recommend it to all of the historical fiction fans.
    Buecherwurm161 3 months ago
    Love the Book. I was a First Read Winner of this book and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The way I measure a good book is by its ability to suck me into the storyline and let me tune out everything else, and this book did just that. I loved the three main characters and I was really sad when the book ended because I wanted to know how their journey continues? Maybe now would be a good time to pressure Juliette Fay into writing a sequel to this book? I loved the storyline, you could really tell the author did her research on the subject, and I enjoyed learning more about how the movie business was run at that time. Very entertaining and this book will make my list of books I like to read over and over again. I think that would make a great movie as well, and show a time were a lot of woman did jobs that are now done mostly by men.
    Mousiemom123 3 months ago
    It’s been a long time since I’ve read a book this good about Hollywood in the silent era. The main characters, Henry, Millie and Irene, aren’t always likable, but they’re always human and believable. Ms. Fay’s knowledge of silent film history is impressive, and she uses it to create a realistic world without overwhelming you with facts. As someone who studies the era, I appreciated her accuracy. An especially fun side game with the book is figuring out whom the secondary characters were based on. Bravo and well done, Ms. Fay. Now I have to read The Tumbling Turner Sisters. I received a free e-copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.
    LawladyCase 3 months ago
    Here we find Irene, Millie and Henry jumping from a moving train. They want to get away from the Burlesque show and find themselves in the lights of Hollywood. The story progresses as each character searches for the right fit for them in the glamour of the flickers. I truly enjoyed this book. I loved the historical accuracy of the time period. The author provided tension in many different ways and I found myself cheering, encouraging and crying for the three of them as they battled the demons. It is an uplifting story. Once of hardships, love, and bravery in a time when anything goes. . . as long as it can be covered by the PR department. If you are looking for an historical fiction book about the 1920s Hollywood scene, this book is for you. It comes highly recommended for its writing, as well as, its historical accuracy. I received an ARC from Gallery, Threshold, Pocket Books through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affects my opinion or rating of this book.
    Anonymous 3 months ago
    I love how Juliette Fay makes the reader feel as though she's writing about people she knows--they don't feel 'in the past' but more right here in front of you. The silent film era popped off the page for me and I loved (and learned from!) this book.
    LHill2110 3 months ago
    Writing: 3/5 Characters: 3.5/5 Plot: 4/5 Historical setting: 5/5 A great story! It grabs you from the first page and won’t allow itself to be put down. It’s a fascinating piece of historical fiction taking place in Hollywood during the Silent Era (1890s - 1920s). The history comes to life through the experiences of our three main characters: Irene Van Beck, Millie Martin, and Henry Weiss. In the opening scene, the three jump off a moving train to escape their current employer — the Burlesque company Chandler’s Follies — and its enforcement goons. They make their way to Hollywood for a chance at a better life. This is my favorite kind of historical fiction — the author embeds as many of the personages, events, and mechanics of the era into the story as possible: vaudeville, burlesque, and films; jobs within the studios (scenarists, costumes, editing, etc); prohibition and speakeasies; taxi dancing and prostitution; (legal) use of heroin; housing issues (No Jews or actors!); unintended pregnancies; a budding studio Publicity department and the power of the Press to destroy; fancy Hollywood parties; and most interesting — the feel of the small Hollywood enclave within which social mores are relaxed, and many kinds of “forbidden” love are possible (though only with great discretion — hence the budding Publicity department). In summary — a terrific story with a real feel for what life was like, embedding historical facts and figures without fictionalizing real people (I hate that!). The characters are very likable, with fully fleshed out, historically accurate, backstories (but not the rich interior life that I like). Excellent pacing, decent writing, the story “sticks” with you for a long time… As an aside, the author lists many sources in the afterward, including a reference to a 13 part documentary called Hollywood: A Celebration of the American Silent Film. All the episodes (listed here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hollywood_(1980_TV_series)#Episode_list) are available on you tube. Start at Episode 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8mo3Z8IkLnU.
    trutexan 3 months ago
    This was just an all-around enjoyable read. The main characters were very likable people and even though it may have been a bit predictable, it was still a very engaging story. Irene, Millie and Henry each have a background that they feel the need to run away from. They form a make-shift family after making a daring escape from a traveling burlesque show. When they get to Hollywood, they help each other until they each find jobs. Even after they each begin to experience some success with their careers, they still face some trying times and come together to support one another. As they make friends with others, they form a larger group of “family” in the Hollywood community. I loved the references to actors and actresses from the 1920’s and the descriptions of the Hollywood topography at that time. It was an interesting inside look at what it took to get a foot in the door of Hollywood during the 1920’s. A fun read and one that I think most readers will enjoy, especially those with an interest in Hollywood and historical fiction. Many thanks to NetGalley and Gallery Books for allowing me to read an advance copy and offer my honest review.
    MatteaLC 3 months ago
    I received this ARC from Net Galley for my honest review. I really enjoyed this story of early Hollywood, during the silent movie era. It tells the story of three burlesque performers that escape the entrapment of miserly wages, poor living conditions and mistreatment, and jump a train for Hollywood. This well researched novel by Juliette Fay, follows the struggles of Millie, Irene and Henry, as they try to find their way in the brutal competition of film making. The characters are well developed and likable, as we follow their struggles and success, as they find their footing in a challenging industry. I would recommend this book, which is a perfect beach or travel read. My thanks to Net Galley, Gallery Books and the author for this delightful story.
    Ashcclapp 3 months ago
    This book was so well written and unique! I would definitely recommend it to fans of historical fiction that are looking for something different from the WWII novels out there. All three main characters were very well developed and endearing, allowing their flaws to show but never letting them overtake who they were at their cores. I loved that the novel spanned a number of years without dragging and helped to grow the individual storylines at a perfectly executed pace. The author allowed the reader to be transported into 1920's Hollywood and experience the hardships and challenges that people of all kinds came into contact with, some which mirror today's challenges. This book perfectly showed how friendship can get you through the toughest of times and should never be taken for granted. I am really looking forward to reading more from Juliette Fay and truly appreciate her writing talent! Many thanks to Netgalley, Gallery Books, and Simon & Schuster for this ARC in exchange for my honest review!