This is a mammoth novel about three sisters, Aurora, Clover and Bella and their mother Flora, on the vaudeville circuit from 1912 until we leave them in 1917. Flora was living as a housewife with her schoolteacher husband, but after the death of both him and her young son, she has decided to take her girls on the road. The book begins with the young girls auditioning in a theatre when Aurora is just 16 and the youngest, Bella, only 13. There are jobs cancelled, hopes raised only to be dashed, working for experience with no pay, living in rented rooms and boarding houses, the cold and scraping by on bowls of bread and milk. This is, in other words, no glamorous world - although you do get the sense that once the girls feet hit the boards they are off and flying in the lights, and the once empty and cold theatre becomes otherwise for them. In that sense, you do feel that however hard the life is, the sisters would not really wish for any other means of existence.
The novel shows their first fumbling loves, the betrayals and the ups and downs they face. Men do not often seem to offer the girls much - even initial hopes of security and stability seem to be little more than the sham of a vaudeville stage set. A man's temper, his whims and his way of ordering the girls about are often resented and the girls a unit that is hard to break. In this Canadian wildness it seems always to be winter and there was so much snow I felt myself shivering in places! The outside does intrude, but slowly, and WWI suddenly impacts on the girls and those around them.
The author has obviously done immense research for the novel and it is full of great detail, ufortunately sometimes too much and the book did begin to drag at the end. I do feel a good editor could have helped and it might have been a better read if the storyline had been a little tighter. I did enjoy the novel very much though, especially the first half, and the characters the author created were, in places, wonderful.