Vintage £7.99 (326pp) (free p&p) from the Independent Bookshop : 08430 600 030
Angel of Brooklyn, By Janette Jenkins
Friday 28 August 2009
The turn-of-the-century traffic between American and British high society has inspired any number of biographies and dramas. In her third novel, Bolton born Janette Jenkins turns the tables on the Astors and Cunards, describing an exchange of a less high falutin kind.
It's January 1914 when Jonathan Crane returns from his travels with Beatrice, his beautiful American bride. A former Coney Island showgirl, Beatrice immediately becomes the focus of village attention: the men drawn by her New World good looks, the women by her stories of fast food and fairy lights. But as the realities of war take hold, and Jonathan and his friends sign up, Beatrice's liberated ways feed the jealousy of the wives and mothers left behind. Alternating between Blighty and Brooklyn, Jenkins's richly imagined period piece follows Beatrice from her eccentric, motherless childhood in Normal, Illinois, through to her short spell as Coney Island's top attraction.
Dressed in nothing but a pair of white feathered wings, she wins the admiration not only of drooling daytrippers, but a successful German photographer. Happy to answer her new English friends' questions about saltines and spaghetti, Beatrice wisely keeps shtum about her brief involvement in the lucrative world of peepshow porn.
It's a tall order to mix American Gothic with northern provincialism, but Jenkins puts the entertainment of her readers first. A buoyant novel, that bottles the seasonal delights of Coney and Morecambe Bay.
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