Love, loss, and Las Vegas glitter: All the beautiful girls

Fresh out of the box this week is All the Beautiful Girls. This great story is the second novel from Elizabeth J. Church, author of The Atomic Weight of Love.

Lily Dekker has had a difficult start to life. Wrenched from idyllic surroundings by a cataclysmic car crash, her family “dissolve(d) like sugar in iced tea”.

She is forced, at eight years old, to start life again with her aunt and uncle; one of whom is less than affectionate, the other overly so.

Dance, and an unexpected ally provide her means of escape to Las Vegas, where she reinvents herself; becoming gorgeous Ruby Wilde, a Las Vegas showgirl.

All the Beautiful Girls addresses difficult themes of loss, abuse, self-harm, love and friendship. Around these ideas, Church creates a contemplation of life, sprinkled with deep understanding and philosophy:

A soft rain began to fall, dotting the windshield with drops that ran until they randomly joined each other. Is that what people did too? Lily wondered. Fall and drift until they collided with one another, the way the Aviator had collided with her ten years ago? p.56.

Set in the 1960s, the story exists in a whimsical time when everyone smoked, colour TV was a novelty (in-room phones!), and we had TV dinners before we had microwaves.

A  star-studded sixties cast from Sammy Davis Jnr, Dylan to Dinah Shore, parade through the pages of Ruby’s colourful and often disastrous life. Filled with thrills, spills and glitter, Church uses the setting of Las Vegas to dig deeper into the politics of the time – racial equality, women’s rights, wealth and Vietnam to name a few.

Las Vegas is a fantasy world; a plastic bubble protected from world issues, trapped in time:

“For the first time, she realised that Vietnam cast no shadows beneath the lights of Vegas; there were no flag-shrouded caskets, no hollowed, haunted eyes of returning soldiers anywhere near the casinos. How efficiently Las Vegas seemed to be able to keep hippies away from the Strip, where they might hurt business. … She’d been living in la-la land for too long.”  p.174.

Will Ruby find her way back to the real world? Would it bore her if she did?

I loved Lily/Ruby’s wee tips on makeup and fashion, and really warmed to her as a character. Elizabeth J. Church writes beautifully (I also found myself dancing in the stacks).

If you have never been to Las Vegas, let this book will take you there. Or maybe these ones…

All the Beautiful Girls
by Elizabeth J. Church
Published by HarperCollins New Zealand
ISBN: 9780008267940

Dragonsource browsing guide 导读龙源

今年春节,妹妹及其家人从国内来旅游。打开行李箱时,她拿出一本《啄木鸟》的杂志要扔到回收桶里。她说这杂志是买来在等待转机时看的,现在已经看完后了,可以扔了。我夺过那本杂志,如获至宝,一口气就把它读完了。出国多年了,国内城市里的报刊亭仍是我最怀恋的地方之一。生活在基督城,没有机会再看到那花花绿绿杂志点缀下的报刊亭了。幸运的是我在基督城图书馆工作,图书馆的龙源数字阅读平台也能满足我这一点小小的怀旧心理。

龙源数字阅读平台提供上百种的综合性人文大众类期刊, 内容涵盖管理财经、文化艺术、文学文摘、经济法律、时政新闻、社科历史、健康生活、科技科普和教育教学几大类别。这一内容丰富的华文阅读平台藏在英文网站中,并不为大多数华人顾客所知。下面给大家做一下导读吧。

Dragonsource 龙源
  • 如何进入网页:
  1. Google 网站上搜索Christchurch City Libraries, 进入图书馆网站主页;
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现在您可能迫不及待地想试试 龙源数字阅读平台 了吧?这一阅读平台提供在图书馆注册申请了借书证的顾客免费使用权。如果您希望使用这一平台,请按要求申请借书证。当您点击该文章中的链接时,系统会让您输入借书证号(card number)和密码(password/pin)以便进入特定网页。您在使用中有任何问题,欢迎到任何基督城图书馆咨询。希望龙源期刊杂志能丰富您的阅读经验,帮助您的孩子提供中文水平,‘治愈’您的乡愁。

Hong Wang