Sophie Tucker, known as “Last of the Red Hot Mamas,” was an entertainer (vaudeville, radio, film, theatre) who was popular in the early-to-mid 1900’s. She was known for her risque and comic songs and her big, belting voice. Think, cross between Mae West and Ethel Merman.
Authors Susan & Lloyd Ecker has chosen to tell Sophie Tucker’s story in the form of a fictional biography, but I’m not sure why.
Clearly the Eckers are fans/admirers of Sophie tucker and her work and they’ve done an immense amount of research. And it also seems evident that they’ve captured Sophie’s ‘voice’ in this presentation. But what is not so clear is where biography ends and fiction begins. (Louis B. Mayer was a stage boy who lent his bicycle to Sophie so she could get from one vaudeville engagement to another? Al Capone kidnapped her for a private performance? Seriously?)
The Eckers have adopted Sophie’s stage persona – her bigger than life carriage and her snappy repartee full innuendo (and sometimes not much innuendo but straightforward sex talk) – as her biography voice. This is interesting for a chapter or two, but it gets old fast and it also suggests, by this same voice all the way through, that there is no growth of character. She talks, as a teenager, to her parents, the same way she talks to theatre managers in her early career, and the same way later in life when she’s begun playing the larger theatres across the country.
The timeline jumps around a little bit … wait, I thought she was a big name in entertainment, why is she working so hard to be known in order to get onto a bigger circuit? And the constant name-dropping just became irritating. Was Sophie Tucker a name-dropper, or was that the Eckers letting us know who Tucker was rubbing elbows with?
If I knew which parts of this fictional biography were true, I’d say go out and read it. But I can’t. For anyone interested, there must be actual biographies of Sophie Tucker available.
Looking for a good book? I Am Sophie Tucker is a fictional biography of the early 20th century entertainer, written by fans Susan & Lloyd Ecker. I’m not sure why we need a fictional biography, it sounds as though her real life was exciting enough that it doesn’t need fictional enhancement.
I rate this book a generous two and a half stars.
I received this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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I Am Sophie Tucker
authors: Susan & Lloyd Ecker
publisher: Prospecta Press
hardcover, 416 pages