Last Night at the Blue Angel: A Novel

Last Night at the Blue Angel: A Novel

by Rebecca Rotert


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Set against the backdrop of the early 1960s Chicago jazz scene, a highly ambitious and stylish literary debut that combines the atmosphere and period detail of Amor Towles’ Rules of Civility with the emotional depth and drama of The Memory Keeper's Daughter, about a talented but troubled singer, her precocious ten-year-old daughter, and their heartbreaking relationship.

It is the early 1960s, and Chicago is a city of uneasy tensions—segregation, sexual experimentation, free love, the Cold War—but it is also home to one of the country’s most vibrant jazz scenes. Naomi Hill, a singer at the Blue Angel club, has been poised on the brink of stardom for nearly ten years. Finally, her big break arrives—the cover of Look magazine. But success has come at enormous personal cost. Beautiful and magnetic, Naomi is a fiercely ambitious yet extremely self-destructive woman whose charms are irresistible and dangerous for those around her. No one knows this better than Sophia, her clever ten-year-old daughter.

For Sophia, Naomi is the center of her universe. As the only child of a single, unconventional mother, growing up in an adult world, Sophia has seen things beyond her years and her understanding. Unsettled by her uncertain home life, she harbors the terrible fear that the world could end at any moment, and compulsively keeps a running list of practical objects she will need to reinvent once nuclear catastrophe strikes. Her one constant is Jim, the photographer who is her best friend, surrogate father, and protector. But Jim is deeply in love with Naomi—a situation that adds to Sophia’s anxiety.

Told from the alternating perspectives of Sophia and Naomi, their powerful and wrenching story unfolds in layers, revealing Sophia’s struggle for her mother’s love with Naomi’s desperate journey to stardom and the colorful cadre of close friends who shaped her along the way.

Sophisticated yet poignant, Last Night at the Blue Angel is an unforgettable tale about what happens when our passion for the life we want is at sharp odds with the life we have. It is a story ripe with surprising twists and revelations, and an ending that is bound to break your heart.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062315298
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 04/14/2015
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 421,162
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 8.00(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Rebecca Rotert received an M.A. in literature from Hollins College, where she was the recipient of the Academy of American Poets prize. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times and other publications. She's also an experienced singer and songwriter, who has performed with several bands, and a teacher with the Nebraska Writers Collective. She lives in Omaha, Nebraska. This is her first novel.

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Last Night at the Blue Angel: A Novel 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
KrittersRamblings More than 1 year ago
Check out the full review at Kritters Ramblings A historical fiction that had the time period and a city that I could read over and over again, but fell short for me.  Chicago is a city that feels like it doesn't get as much press as New York City, so I love to read fiction set in it as it is almost like a refreshing drink. The part that fell flat for me was the secretiveness of the lesbian storyline and the pieces that I wish had been a little more obvious in the beginning.  The women that were helping Naomi raise Sophia were from her childhood and the reader didn't get their full stories until too late in the game to appreciate their roles in Sophia's upbringing.  I wish the reader had gotten a little more of that earlier in the book.  
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. It took me back to my own childhood. Reminded me of my mother who sang the blues in little clubs in CA. Of my upbringing in that crazy blues world of the 50's. I could so relate to Sophia.
sneps More than 1 year ago
Can Naomi have fame and family at the same time? Great Read! Reading this novel, I could imagine break out female actresses and singers, who are single moms and travel with their child(ren). This story details the struggles and daily challenges Naomi faces to become a star, even at the expense of her daughter, Sophia. Sophia is not your average little girl. Of course, she is also living on the road, living with different people, and has a different perspective on life. She is an observer, and journals words/thoughts/ideas in her two little notebooks. While she doesn’t have a father in her life, Jim (Naomi’s manager) assumes that role and becomes a father figure to Sophia-who she looks to for support. During a time of racism, sexual revolution, and the challenges of being a single mom, Naomi’s life is revealed through the eyes of her daughter, Sophia. There are some lesbian moments in the book, although it is not explicit. Nor does the author go into much detail about that part of Naomi’s life. It’s an interesting tale and a cautionary one, because sometimes to gain fame, it means to lose those you love most.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Device that are so different. this story has no happy ending they usually dont digging deeper into angst to the end. Why not make it happy a disney goodie two shoes for a change
GrammyReading More than 1 year ago
a truly delicious read...sophia the daughter/wise child..naomi the singer/mother...jim the friend/protector..laura and david , sister and brother...from the past, present, and possibly the future...sister and rita, always there to nurture, to lead and guide...sophia's needs, naomi's gift, jim's loyalty..all play a part in life's discovery..promises that lead up to on a multitude of levels... colors of people, places long gone...friendships, faith, and's complexities....simplicities....conclusions
FeatheredQuillBookReviews More than 1 year ago
In her debut novel, Last Night at the Blue Angel, Rebecca Rotert delivers a sumptuous story of sultry-voiced songstress Naomi Hill and her ten year journey of chasing stardom in 1960’s Chicago. The story opens with ten-year-old Sophia sitting in the wings contemplating the complicated singing career of her mother, Naomi Hill. It is Naomi’s last night at the Blue Angel, the once iconic jazz club in the hub of Chicago. It is 1965 and even though it has only been a few months since Naomi got the gig, tonight is the night and the Blue Angel is the place where she will launch her career. Jim is a photographer. He fell in love with Naomi the moment he laid eyes on her. He was also (sort of) the only father figure Sophia knew. It would have been perfect at that point for Sophia to put a “happily ever after” stamp on the scene before her, but too much happened leading up to this night. Actually, it all started before Sophia was born. Naomi didn’t grow up in Chicago. Rather, she reinvented herself in Chicago. Back in that small Kansas town, her name was Naomi Hutnik. Her family was poor—her father a German immigrant and her mother a woman with a brood of seven children (including Naomi) to tend to. Naomi lived on the poor side of town and Laura and David Miller lived among the rich folk. When Naomi befriends Laura and their friendship transcends beyond the boundaries of school girl antics and into the throes of more than an intimate encounter, perhaps things would have been different had Laura’s mother not interrupted their moment. Sadly, Naomi was never quite fortunate enough to have do-over’s. There are no coincidences in life and at seventeen, Naomi leaves Kansas not quite sure where she’s going, but how ironic David Miller would be at the receiving end when she finally arrives. Rebecca Rotert has written a fascinating account of what it must have been like during the 1960’s glory days of the jazz scene in downtown Chicago. She captures the essence of iconic buildings that stand no more and breathes believable life into each of her characters; particularly Jim. He is a photographer in her novel, yet he is believable given he was crafted after noted photographer Richard Nickel—a talented photographer on a mission to capture the essence of the many iconic landmarks of Chicago before they met their fateful destruction in the1960’s. Ms. Rotert guides the reader in perfect see-saw cadence between Naomi’s past and present as she tells the story of her conflicts. Naomi is a fiercely passionate singer and nurtures her singing to a fault. Rotert does an equally admirable job of conveying the conflict Naomi faces with the responsibility of being the only mother Sophia has. There are elements of humor infused just when the reader wants to admonish as much as there are moments of absolute sorrow. Ms.Rotert, you are a phenomenal conductor in charge of your symphony of words across each and every page! I look forward to your next book. Quill says: Sit back and relax into every delicious moment of the Last Night at the Blue Angel.
Honolulubelle More than 1 year ago
Poignant and beautifully written Favorite Quotes: “Mother is a singer.  I live in her dark margin.” “Mother has many kinds of smiles.  This one is the I’m sad and all alone but I don’t want you to worry smile.” “When she notices me, all the times she doesn’t notice me get erased.  Like I imagined them.” “Darling, she said gently, we don’t get to live two lives at once.  We must choose between who we were and who we would like to be.  I know this better than anyone.” My Review: Last Night at the Blue Angel is one of those beautifully crafted books that I simultaneously love/hate to read and tend to avoid - yet also seek out.  It is brooding and smoky, and pulled and tore at me as I read.  The story turned me inside out, and I sense these peculiar and quirky characters will not be leaving my head space for weeks to come.  The novel is meticulously crafted with a moody, melancholy, and ethereal air, and is devastatingly emotional and haunting.  The story is told from two different narrators and from two different time periods that are 10 years apart.  The story starts at the end and works backwards, I didn’t realize that at first, but found that formula to be intriguing, and one that served the story well.  Sophia is the neglected and overlooked bastard child of a selfish, immature, and histrionic, and contrarian mother, who is a nightclub singer at The Blue Angel during the 60s.  Her mother had always been the odd misfit who had also been a troubled and angry child.  As an adult, she continued to seek/dwell in fantasy, wanting what she can’t/shouldn’t have, and never pleased with it once she had it.  I enjoyed last quarter section of the book the best, as I reveled in learning the beginnings of each of the singer’s relationships.  It was amusing to delve into how she had met and managed to collect her odd little entourage, and seeing how they had folded into a cohesive if not highly eccentric extended family.  I adored and pitied Jim all throughout, and his story was the most deeply moving and shattering to me.  I actually had to stop reading at several points to sob, which is something I seldom do, but Ms. Rotert snuck up on me, she has mad skills.