The Show Girl
Olive Shine is a Ziegfeld Girl, living the high life in New York City in the final moments of the pleasure-loving Roaring Twenties. We see her world through her own rose-colored point of view; this is a narrator who ignores anything unpleasant, from her own troubled past to the grimy underbelly of the speakeasy culture she adores, to the predatory men who keep the Broadway lights glowing, to the warning signs of the impending stock market crash. She leads a charmed existence, landing starring roles in the Follies shows with no connections and seemingly no effort, successfully fending off the unwanted affections of both stage-door Johnnies and her own producer, and landing instead a doting millionaire for a fiancé. Only when all her dreams of love and stardom seem to be coming true do her past and her own feelings of guilt come back to haunt her.
This is an entertaining read, if you’re mainly looking for descriptions of the lush lifestyles of 1929; especially fascinating (and less clichéd) are the loving descriptions of holidays in the famous “Adirondack Camps” owned by the wealthy moguls who enjoyed glamping in one of the most beautiful landscapes in the country. Otherwise, the novel lacks much emotional depth; Olive is frustratingly gullible and lacking in self-esteem, and while a large cast of characters moves through her busy life, we don’t get to know any of them well. The emotional crisis she experiences near the end of the novel doesn’t pack much punch, because she has brought almost every trouble upon herself, which makes the lessons she learns both predictable and unremarkable. However, Harrison keeps Olive moving, which makes for a lively reading experience for anyone who can’t get enough of the Flapper Era in historical fiction.