Format: Trade Paperback
Size: 5.53" x 8.48"
Publication Date: Apr 14, 2008
FIC019000 FICTION / Literary
FIC014000 FICTION / Historical
Shortlisted, 2009 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Novel
Shortlisted, 2009 Margaret and John Savage First Book Award
“Blagrave’s book has captured a series of stills in historic Saint John and spread a fine dusting of silver on an ordinary life starring one Lillie Dempster that will not fade to black for some time in the minds of readers … Rendered in splendid detail, the city of Saint John – as much as Lillie – is the central character of the novel. Blagrave effectively creates a film montage of early Saint John – its streets and businesses, bars and bootleggers, and above all its temperament.”
— New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal
“True to its time, it is a slice of film life, a you-are-there invasion of cinema in its infancy.”
— The Sun Times
“Enormously entertaining novel … Blagrave skillfully weaves fact and fiction … an engaging tale of excess and exploitation.”
— The Fiddlehead
Lillie Dempster of Saint John, New Brunswick, often imagines herself on the big screen. It is the one fantastic escape she can afford from her tragic daily life. In the burgeoning early years of the twentieth century, Lillie is a lot like the distressed damsels from the silent films she loves. Orphaned by the Great War and the Spanish influenza at fourteen, Lillie is forced to move in with her upstairs neighbour, Frank. She finds, however, that life does not get much better as a pretty young girl who draws unwanted interest from men wherever she goes.
When a group of filmmakers come to town to shoot a movie, she finally has the opportunity to live her film fantasies. Lillie makes her debut as a silent actress, standing in for the often temperamental Norma Shearer. Finding she has a future in Hollywood, Lillie makes her way west, but as she quickly learns, life in the spotlight is not always the glamour and glitz she thought it would be. Mark Blagrave delivers a novel that illustrates life on the east coast at the turn of the century, showing the onrush and upheaval of the modern world through the emergence of unions and social unrest, the horrors of the First World War, and the wonders of ever-evolving technology.