Set against the backdrop of the early 1960s Chicago jazz scene, a highly ambitious and stylish literary debut that combines the atmosphere and period detail of Amor Towles’ Rules of Civility with the emotional depth and drama of The Memory Keeper's Daughter, about a talented but troubled singer, her precocious ten-year-old daughter, and their heartbreaking relationship.
It is the early 1960s, and Chicago is a city of uneasy tensions—segregation, sexual experimentation, free love, the Cold War—but it is also home to one of the country’s most vibrant jazz scenes. Naomi Hill, a singer at the Blue Angel club, has been poised on the brink of stardom for nearly ten years. Finally, her big break arrives—the cover of Look magazine. But success has come at enormous personal cost. Beautiful and magnetic, Naomi is a fiercely ambitious yet extremely self-destructive woman whose charms are irresistible and dangerous for those around her. No one knows this better than Sophia, her clever ten-year-old daughter.
For Sophia, Naomi is the center of her universe. As the only child of a single, unconventional mother, growing up in an adult world, Sophia has seen things beyond her years and her understanding. Unsettled by her uncertain home life, she harbors the terrible fear that the world could end at any moment, and compulsively keeps a running list of practical objects she will need to reinvent once nuclear catastrophe strikes. Her one constant is Jim, the photographer who is her best friend, surrogate father, and protector. But Jim is deeply in love with Naomi—a situation that adds to Sophia’s anxiety.
Told from the alternating perspectives of Sophia and Naomi, their powerful and wrenching story unfolds in layers, revealing Sophia’s struggle for her mother’s love with Naomi’s desperate journey to stardom and the colorful cadre of close friends who shaped her along the way.
Sophisticated yet poignant, Last Night at the Blue Angel is an unforgettable tale about what happens when our passion for the life we want is at sharp odds with the life we have. It is a story ripe with surprising twists and revelations, and an ending that is bound to break your heart.
Set in mid-1960s Chicago, Rotert's debut depicts Naomi Hill's struggles to succeed as a jazz singer, largely from the perspective of her young daughter, Sophia. "Mother is a singer. I live in her dark margin. For the first ten years of my life, I watch her from the wings." A reckless single mother, Naomi believes in living in the moment and depends on her friends to help care for Sophia. The girl grows up in an erratic lifestyle revolving around Naomi's club act at the titular Blue Angel. The stress Sophia already feels as a result of their unpredictable routine is heightened by school civil defense drills, which leave her feeling anxious about the threat of nuclear warfare. However, she has an ability beyond her age to understand her mother's flaws while still being able to cherish their relationship. In flashbacks told from Naomi's point of view, the woman reflects on what drove her to flee her Kansas hometown in the 1950s and what drives her to pursue the spotlight. Rotert has created a complicated and engaging heroine in Sophia, a memorable character portrait which is her book's most striking aspect.
Love this book
What a great book! The characters stayed with me long after I finished it. A beautifully written story about an eclectic sort of family.
Extravagant and wonderful!
What a journey. I feel like I've been on a thrill ride of a roller coaster from the moment I read the first page of the prologue.
This is such a moving story, told by Naomi, the mother and Sophia, her ten year old daughter. The story begins as Naomi performs her last night at The Blue Angel, possibly ending her ten year fight to become famous.
Each portion of the book is segmented by a song title, and I used YouTube to listen to the song before starting that portion. The Author paint scenes so vividly, it was easy for me to get lost in Chicago of the mid sixties.
I loved this book and hope you will read it!
Last Night AtThe Blue Angel
Wonderful book. I' not sure how a group could be more messed up! But they were lovable and believable. I will be waiting anxiously for the next book to see if this author gets crazier or learns to make do with more normal people.