Filthy Sugar

Written by Heather Babcock
Review by Bonnie DeMoss

It is the 1930s, and Wanda Whittle’s father has passed away. She lives behind the marketplace with her mother and sister and dreams of a more interesting life. Always the pretty one, she goes from modeling coats in a department store to mesmerizing crowds of men at burlesque shows with her considerable assets. As Wanda Wiggles, she uses her body for pleasure and profit and makes no apologies. But who is using who? Faced with the manipulations and expectations of others, will she reach for what she wants despite the men who want to control her body and her soul? And who really has her heart?

This is an extremely sensual work of art with very mature themes exquisitely written by Heather Babcock. The characters are real and raw. Wanda’s loves and losses are palpable and so clearly mirrored in the choices she makes. Babcock’s writing skill is evident, and the way she uses ordinary objects, such as a billboard or a bottle of milk, to express extreme emotions or the desperation of the time is very effective.

The 1930s come alive in this novel, but the helplessness of the Depression era is cut through with a slight thread of hope. Show business is represented mainly through the burlesque shows, but hidden gems throughout pay homage to the 1930s pre-Code movies. There is also a glossary of 1930s terms like “masher” and “tomato” that will help you navigate through this world.

Recommended for anyone interested in Depression-era history or wanting to read the first novel by a very talented writer.