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Vivian Dunn
For the Love of Many
Vivian Dunn, author

Adult; General Fiction (including literary and historical); (Market)

Two young Broadway chorus girls fall in love in the man's world of show business in 1924.
Dunn’s debut novel is a sumptuous sojourn into the grit and glamour of the Roaring Twenties given new life through the lenses of queer identity and the story of the rise of a superstar. Billie, the chosen sobriquet of Lucille Le Sur, one day to become known as Joan Crawford, is a smallish-town girl with a past who only wants to dance on Broadway –and will do anything to get there. Once on the Great White Way, as a chorine in a J. J. Shubert production, she meets Nadine, a fellow chorine with a reputation as a good-time girl and the connections to go with it. As the pair opens up about their pasts and shared experiences, growing intimate, matters like marriages and careers get in the way of what could be, threatening an early closing on their romance.

Rich with atmosphere and stunning detail, the novel offers an intricately imagined love story viewed from the dual perspectives of Billie and Nadine. Without shying away from the realities of the time period–and what women were forced to do if they wanted their chance at fame–Dunn fully immerses readers in the kaleidoscopic headiness of Broadway life during the Prohibition era, as the women both sing and embody the hit song “T'ain't Nobody's Business if I Do.” Fact and fiction are blended together with a seamless ease, inviting readers into the game of untangling which is which.

The novel has some stylistic quirks. The dual-viewpoint narrative’s quick transitions from one voice to another takes some getting used to and may at times throw some readers off, and intermittent bursts of poetry among the prose provide a refreshing (if odd) change of pace. But this story and romance boasts a solid foundation, compelling characters, and prose that brings the Jazz Age–and what queer existence would have been like in that era–to life

Takeaway: A beautifully penned love story that pays homage to the theater and the queer experience in the Prohibition era.

Great for fans of: Laura Moriarty’s The Chaperone, Renée Rosen’s Dollface.

Production grades
Cover: B
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A