The Showgirl: All the Beautiful Girls by Elizabeth J. Church

The Showgirl: All the Beautiful Girls by Elizabeth J. Church

Las Vegas in the 1960s with its neon lights, topless showgirls, high rollers, glamorous superstars like Frank Sinatra, Eartha Kitt, Sammy Davis Jnr., is the glittering backdrop for the gorgeously written All the Beautiful Girls. The alluring setting belies the serious side of this enthralling second novel from Elizabeth J. Church, whose acclaimed debut was The Atomic Weight of Love.

The story opens in the decidedly homely post-war Kansas, as eight-year-old Lily Decker’s world is torn apart after a high-speed car crash kills her beloved parents and older sister. Lily, who is the only survivor, is forced to live with her dour and dowdy Aunt Tate and Tate’s angry and lecherous husband, Miles. Things go downhill from there, with unwanted nocturnal visits from Uncle Miles while Aunt Tate turns a blind eye. Solace comes in the form of a tall, well-groomed pilot who lives nearby, but Stirling Sloan is also the man whose fast car collided with her parents on the night of the fatal accident. Feeling guilty, ‘The Aviator,’ as Lily nicknames Sloan, supplies Lily with the novels that feed her avid appetite for literature, and funds her other great solace, dancing.

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Lily grows into a stunning young woman who escapes her vile relatives by heading for the bright lights of Vegas where she sheds Lily Decker to become Ruby Wilde. But her ambition to become a professional dancer comes to a halt when it becomes obvious her body is more suited to the role of Vegas showgirl, even if it means entertaining men as part of her job. She wears sky-high headdresses, stilettoes, and costumes dripping with feathers and rhinestones. The easy money and glamour are irresistible, but there’s much more to Ruby than her good looks and ultimately, she needs more than the showgirl life.

In All the Beautiful Girls, Church tells a story that is at once raw and tender. Sexy, romantic and evocative, with themes of redemption and guilt, she makes us feel Ruby Wilde’s pain and root for her to survive. Gaudy Vegas and life in the sixties at the dawning of more liberal times is conjured skillfully in a novel that also explores the complex issues that era presented for our loveable yet flawed heroine. While Ruby is impacted by events that shook the world – the assassination of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy, and the Vietnam War – her past returns to haunt her, too. When true love beckons, Ruby realises she can’t escape her history as easily as she thought, and the shame from her childhood surfaces. The suspense builds. Can our heroine escape her past or will she will be inexorably drawn into the seedier side of Sin City?

As the author says in her note: ‘The most iconic Vegas performer, the showgirl, seemed to me the ideal figure to illuminate issues surrounding women’s bodies – how they’re simultaneously idolized and exploited, celebrated and taken for granted. Lily/Ruby also provided me with a way to write honestly about sexuality, that secret ignominy of a woman’s life.’

ElizabethJChurch2_c_AnnaYarrowDespite the events in All the Beautiful Girls unfolding almost fifty years ago, the novel’s themes of shame and sexuality have as great a resonance today, in the #metoo age.

Elizabeth J. Church was born in Los Alamos, New Mexico. She practiced law for over thirty years, focusing on mental health and constitutional law issues. She is the author of The Atomic Weight of LoveAll the Beautiful Girls is her second novel. She lives in Northern New Mexico.

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        Publisher details

        All The Beautiful Girls
        Author
        Elizabeth J. Church
        Publisher
        HarperCollins
        Released
        08 March, 2018

        Synopsis

        The dazzling, powerful story of a gutsy showgirl who tries to conquer her past amongst the glamour of 1960s Las Vegas – finding unexpected fortune, friendship and love.In the summer of 1968, Ruby Wilde is the toast of Las Vegas. Showgirl of the Year, in her feathers and rhinestones, five-inch heels and sky-high headdresses, she mesmerises audiences from the Tropicana to the Stardust. Ratpackers and movie stars, gamblers and astronauts vie for her attention and shower her with gifts.But not so long ago Ruby Wilde was Lily Decker from Kansas: an orphaned girl determined to dance her way out of her troubled past. When she was eight years old, Lily survived the car crash that killed her parents and sister. Raised by an aunt who took too little interest in her and an uncle who took too much, dancing was her solace, and her escape. When a mysterious benefactor pays for her to attend a local dance academy, Lily's talent becomes her ticket to a new life.Now, as Ruby Wilde, the ultimate Sin City success story, she discovers that the glare of the spotlight cannot banish the shadows that haunt her. As the years pass and Ruby continues to search for freedom, for love and, most importantly, herself, she must learn the difference between what glitters and what is truly gold.
        Elizabeth J. Church
        About the author

        Elizabeth J. Church

        Elizabeth J. Church was born in Los Alamos, New Mexico. Her father, a research chemist, was drafted out of Carnegie Mellon University, where he was pursuing his graduate studies, and was sent to join other scientists working in secret on the Manhattan Project. Church's mother, a biologist, eventually joined her husband in Los Alamos. Church practiced law for over thirty years, focusing on mental health and constitutional law issues. She is the author of The Atomic Weight of LoveAll the Beautiful Girls is her second novel. She lives in Northern New Mexico.

        Books by Elizabeth J. Church

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