This is my first selection for the Jazz Age January Event. (You can read all about the challenge and sign up yourself here.) I’ve always felt like I had the heart of a flapper, if not the style of one. What I would have given to have been a rebellious young woman during such interesting times in this country’s history – sneaking out to speakeasies, swilling giggle juice, and listening to hot jazz? It’d have been the cat’s pajamas.
Falling into this challenge and receiving this book for review were both serendipitous events. Ms. Rosen’s agent, Kevan Lyon, put out the request on Twitter for bloggers willing to receive a copy of this book for review and after reading the premise of this delightfully sinister story, I answered the call.
Dollface: A Novel of the Roaring Twenties by Renée Rosen
Vera Abramowitz is determined to leave her gritty childhood behind, and live a more exciting life, one that her mother never dreamed of. Bobbing her hair and showing her knees, the lipsticked beauty dazzles, doing the Charleston in nightclubs and earning the nickname “Dollface.”
As the ultimate flapper, Vera captures the attention of two high rollers, a handsome nightclub owner and a sexy gambler. On their arms, she gains entree into a world filled with bootlegged bourbon, wailing jazz and money to burn. She thinks her biggest problem is choosing between them, until the truth comes out. Her two lovers are really mobsters from rival gangs during Chicago’s infamous Beer Wars, a battle Al Capone refuses to lose.
The heady life she’s living is an illusion resting on a bedrock of crime and violence unlike anything the country has ever seen before. When the good times come to an end, Vera becomes entangled in everything from bootlegging to murder. And as men from both gangs fall around her, Vera must put together the pieces of her shattered life, as Chicago hurtles towards one of the most infamous days in its history, the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. (Plot summary from author’s website.)
Although the pacing of this book races, and Vera may seem like a superficial social-climber at first glance, this isn’t necessarily a light read. The setting and characters are full of depth and racked with conflict. When Vera returns to the filth of the stockyards on a mandatory visit with her mother, the tension between her two worlds is palpable.
“Take it. Go on.”
I nodded, stuffed the bills inside my one good pocket. My mother wouldn’t splurge on a plumber, but she’d give me two dollars like it was spare change. I gave her a hug, and for a moment she stood there, her body stiff with surprise. My gesture had caught her off guard. I started to pull away but she drew me in closer, tightening her embrace. This was the nature of our relationship; we were always out of step. When I wanted nothing to do with her, she wanted me nearby, and when I grew desperate for her approval, for her attention, she was too busy for me.
“Go-go,” she said, still holding me tight.
After I boarded the streetcar, I stared out the window, watching her walk toward the slaughterhouse. Before the streetcar started up, she turned back and waved to me. I pressed my hand to the glass and felt a tear forming. I hated when I felt sorry for her. Seeing her make that walk back by herself made me feel as if I’d abandoned her; I was only trying to help myself. No matter what, I couldn’t let myself end up like her. I just couldn’t.
Ah, the complicated intricacies of the mother/daughter relationship. Who hasn’t had those same thoughts? Rosen not only nails the complexities of the child/parent dynamic, she really paints vivid pictures of this rich historical setting, from the night life of Chicago during Prohibition with fascinating details that don’t overwhelm the story, to the gritty mobster wars leading up to the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, to the intimate family lives of all involved. Rosen grounds you right in this time and place and brings this tale to life and it rushes by in a blaze of booze and bullets and passion. All in all a great read.
In the spirit of sharing, I’m holding a giveaway for this fine book throughout this month as we celebrate the Jazz Age. (Open to U.S. residents only.) Follow the link below to enter. You can enter each day from now until February 8th. For an easy entry, leave a comment telling me your favorite slang or phrase from the Roaring Twenties. It was such a great time for colorful language, don’t you think?
ENTER HERE!!! ➤➤➤ DOLLFACE Rafflecopter giveaway
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