Sunday, October 29, 2023

Weekend Review: The Roaring Days of Zora Lily


The Roaring Days of Zora Lily / Noelle Salazar
TO: Mira, c2023.
416 p.

This novel starts out at a contemporary museum, where a curator putting together a retrospective of 100 years of movie costumes uncovers the name Zora Lily under the tag of a dress she's mounting. But who is Zora Lily? Nobody seems to know. 

The book then moves back to Zora's storyline, and only returns to the museum at the very end of the book. So it's not a traditional dual timeline novel, rather, it's more of a framing device. Zora's story is the heart of it. 

Zora lives in Seattle in the 20s. She's the eldest daughter in a large-ish family; her mother is a seamstress and Zora helps with the mending and fitting and stitching. But she has a special skill, and she dreams of becoming another Chanel or Lanvin. 

Her life is very eventful. The chapters have her fortunes rising and falling, finding a good position and losing it, having the chance to go to Hollywood to design but returning home before too long, encountering a rich businessman who everyone wants and having him fall for her instantly despite their class differences, then having certain things come between them... if there is something that can happen to her, it will. 

Early in the story, Zora's adventurous friend takes them 'downtown' to a speakeasy, where her friend dances in a revue. Zora helps keep their costumes in order, and from there just keeps sewing her way into Hollywood. I loved the descriptions of the clothes that Zora sews and repairs, the sewing machine she eventually receives, her time in Hollywood in the unsatisfying studio system, and the direction she takes when she returns to Seattle. All the sewing and designing and clothing bits were engaging and a delight to imagine. 

Overall, however, I found the story quite plodding despite all the eventful ups and downs of Zora's life. Her romance was treacly, many of her misfortunes could have been avoided, and her personality seemed dull in comparison to her ambitious and energetic best friend. Also, the writing style didn't catch me, with the wrong word for something being used a few times, and the inclusion of 20s slang like 'gams' thrown in as something Zora says. This doesn't fit her at all. While people might have been using those expressions, the innocent Zora seems unlikely to be throwing them around. 

So, this was just okay for me. I'm not the best target market for these kind of historical sagas anyhow, but will give them a try just for the sewing content, and this one delivered in that area! I just found the story stretched the suspension of disbelief a little too far, for me. 

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