City of Flickering Light

Written by Juliette Fay
Review by Elicia Parkinson

1921. Irene Van Beck and Millie Martin, dancers in a burlesque show, have just jumped from a moving train, a plan they kept hidden for some time. A comedian in the same troupe, Henry Weiss, unexpectedly follows them. Though his decision was impulsive when he saw Irene and Millie leave, it turns out to be advantageous for the three of them as they enter into Hollywood with dreams of making a successful life for themselves in the silent film industry, the “flickers.”

The three characters are wonderfully developed and charming each in their own way. Fay spent a great deal of time researching Hollywood in the 1920s and inserts time-appropriate slang and details to bring the story alive. An epigraph begins each chapter, quotes from Hollywood heavy-hitters of the early 20th century: Mary Pickford, Cecil B. DeMille, Greta Garbo, etc. The epigraphs add to the historical tone of the story as we follow these three main characters through the trials and tribulations of being up-and-coming, unknown actors and actresses of the day. Irene, Millie, and Henry find themselves encountering people and circumstances they are not always entirely equipped to deal with, but together they work to find their way. Two things are certain, however: by leaving the burlesque show behind, their freedom comes at a price, and there are no guarantees in life.

Highly recommended for readers fascinated by stories of Hollywood in the 1920s and the scandalous reports that were deftly covered up by the studios. While some character names in Fay’s novel will be familiar to many, the inspiration for others will be apparent to fans with a deeper knowledge of the sordid history surrounding Hollywoodland.