In 1925, Chicago was the jazz capital of the world. Honoree Dalcour is the daughter of a southern sharecropper, who came to Chicago and became a chorus girl. She is hustling her way to the top and is hired at the Dreamland Café - the classiest speakeasy in the Black Belt. It's an opportunity for her to rub elbows with celebrities like Louis Armstrong and filmmaker Oscar Micheaux. But between the gangsters, the gambling and the bootleg whiskey, living her dream and being an independent black woman are both very risky propositions. The 1925 timeline alternates with Honoree in 2015. Film student Sawyer Hayes visits the bedside of Honree, now 110-year-old. He is doing his dissertation on Oscar Micheaux, and Honoree is the only remaining living link to the legendary film maker. He must convince Honoree to fill in the blanks in his research so that he can finish his thesis and move forward with his life and career. The story unfolds on this split timeline, alternating between Honoree in 1925 and Sawyer in 2015.
This book, my friends. This book is going to be huge this year. I think this could be the hot book-club book for 2021. It's Denny S. Bryce's debut novel and it is stunning. Really impressive, particularly for a debut novel. This is engrossing historical fiction. This is a book that catches your attention from the first page and pulls you into the glitz and glamour, as well as the grit and grimy underbelly, of the jazz age of Chicago. The imagery is lush and gorgeous. You can see it all. This is one of my favorite periods of American history to read about, and the history here is impeccably researched and all of the details feel completely authentic. I loved reading about the dancing, the costumes, the music! And set against this glitzy backdrop, the real history is told... Of the class, sexual and racial disparities and discriminations that would have conspired to hold back a woman like Honoree. These were very tough times for a single black woman in Chicago. Honoree was a great and complex character. She's a bit prickly on the outside. As her story unfolds, we can clearly see how this prickly exterior has been her protection and how underneath she has a real heart of gold. The split timeline is very well done, alternating between the past and the present to piece together the puzzle that Honoree is. I really loved it. I would love to see this made into a movie, it would be absolutely gorgeous. I'll be looking forward to Bryce's next novel, Blackbirds, coming soon from Kensington Books. Thank you to Bookish Firsts and Kensington Books for providing me with an ARC of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.