The best way to describe Elizabeth J. Church’s All The Beautiful Girls is utterly heart-wrenching. Church’s second novel tells the tale of Lily (or Ruby) who has endured many challenges in her short life. Though she has the grades to go the college, she instead chases her dream to become a dancer in Las Vegas. She finds herself amongst the glamour of Sin City’s showgirl scene, where she must navigate the challenges of the competitive showgirl industry, as well as fighting the demons of her past (which keep on resurfacing in her present).
Before reading the novel, it’s important to note that the book does come along with quite a few potential triggers, so be cautious. Graphic details of animal cruelty, sexual abuse (of a minor), domestic violence and drug abuse feature in the story, so this is something to take into consideration.
All the above situations all play a part in the life of the book's protagonist Lily (who goes by the name Ruby during the Vegas part of the story). Lily is the ultimate survivalist, and despite her past, she perseveres and finds a way to take the hardships of her past and succeed in the cut-throat world of the showgirl scene. Parts of Lily’s character reminded me of George Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London. Whenever there is a glimmer of hope that things are going to turnaround for Lily, her situation spirals out of control once again — each turn as unpredictable as the one that came before it.
The writing style throughout All The Beautiful Girls is absolutely stunning and her prose weaves beautifully. The prose (along with the author’s strong characterisation) adds even more sparkle to the story.
The only part that I didn’t like about the book was the concluding section, which felt rushed. The Vegas portion of the story was well-spaced, and reading it allowed the reader to have a full scope of Lily's life in Vegas. The same can't be said for the final part of the story, which needed an extra few chapters to slow it down.
Reading All The Beautiful Girls provides readers with an emotional experience that will remain well beyond the final page.
Release date: 8th March 2018 by Fourth Estate/HarperCollins
(I received a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review)