Vera Abramowitz has just moved out of her mother’s house, anxious to be on her own. She moved from small-town Illinois to nearby Chicago, and with her beauty, youth, and desire to wear the latest fashion, she quickly becomes the ultimate flapper. Working long hours at two and sometimes three jobs, she barely earns enough to pay her rent. Still, she manages to spend some time at local Speakeasies where the jazz is cool, the booze flows freely, and gangsters plan their next job.
Vera soon catches the attention of two gangsters, Shep Green, who belongs to the North Side Gang run by Dion O’Banion, and Tony Liolli, a member of Al Capone’s South Side Gang. She falls for both men and soon is pregnant and needs to get married fast. Tony knows all about Vera’s relationship with Shep, but Shep knows nothing about there being another man in Vera’s life. The young woman decides that Shep would be a better choice as a husband and father and the two are soon married. While Vera may think her troubles have ended, the Chicago ‘Beer Wars’ have started heating up and with two men, each from opposite sides in the war, Vera is caught right in the middle.
Told in the first person by Vera, a.k.a. ‘Dollface,’ the story takes off at a fast pace. In the early stages, when we first meet Vera, she is a young woman out on her own for the first time. This, I believe, accounts for her naiveté and indecisiveness as regards men. While all those around her knew Shep and Tony were gangsters, it took Vera a while to figure it out. She also couldn’t choose between the more stable, somewhat family oriented Shep and the unreliable, out-for-a-good-time Tony, even when she had a young child to care for. As circumstances changed, however, Vera was forced to mature and this made her a more enjoyable protagonist. As for the other characters, they were well developed and it was such fun to read a 1920s gangster novel from the women’s point of view. While most books and movies of the roaring twenties concentrate on the gangsters, this novel took an interesting turn and made those men peripheral to the real story – the women behind the men. We meet many real, and some fictional, wives and gun molls of famous gangsters, and get a peek into what their lives were like. I loved this aspect of the story and it made for a very quick read.
Quill says: I loved, loved, loved this book. If you want to get lost in the world of 1920s gangsters, prohibition and jazz, don’t miss Dollface!