Wednesday, June 19, 2019

"Speak Easy, Speak Love" by McKelle George (again)

This is the perfect summer read.  Breezy and witty, filled with summer's sunshine and shadows, and crammed with characters I adore.  Lots of substance, but also lots of fun.

I mean, that's my personal definition of a perfect summer read, anyway.

I reviewed this pretty fully last year when I first read it, so if you want to know more about the plot, you can read about that in my other review.  This post is going to be more about gushing about all the things I love.

First of all, it's a retelling of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing, which is my other favorite of his plays.  So I obviously dig seeing all the ways George draws on that.  The characters share names and personality traits with the ones in the play, except for John, who is one of my favorites here, while I cannot stand Don John in the play.  George changes a lot of things, but in ways that suit the story and serve the characters.  This isn't a straight-up retelling, but more like a jazz riff, so it totally works.

Then there's the setting.  I'm not sure why I dig the Roaring Twenties so much, but I do.  Maybe it's all the juicy, meaty stories it provides, with Prohibition and Women's Suffrage and Jazz and people trying to forget The Great War... I don't know.  But I really love reading books set in that era.  Big part of why I enjoy F. Scott Fitzgerald so much. 

This book often makes me think of The Great Gatsby because it has some outward similarities:  young writer observing people, lots of parties at a big house with illegal liquor flowing freely, and so much glitz and glamour masking unhappiness.  But the people in this are so utterly different than the ones in Gatsby.  They all have moral centers, for one thing.  While they do all have dreams they're chasing, they're also all willing to give up a dream if need be, not fruitlessly cling to it.  And nobody engages in any adultery.

Anyway!  The whole story centers around a failing, genteel speakeasy called Hey Nonny Nonny.  It's run by Hero Stahr, her depressed father, her jazz-singer friend Maggie, and virtual orphan Pedro "Prince" Morello.  Hero's cousin Beatrice gets kicked out of school and arrives on their doorstep at the same time as Hero's friend Benedick and his rich pal Claude run away from prep school and arrive there too.  Together with Pedro's half-brother John, they set about trying to save Hey Nonny Nonny from slowly tottering into extinction, but also work toward their own futures.

Did I mention that all of these characters, except Hero's dad, are in their late teens, just finishing high school?  They seem more like college students, to be honest, but I cut the story a little slack here because these are teens from a hundred years ago, when people matured faster and were expected to behave as adults much sooner than they are now.

So.  I love this book.  If you're looking for something fun but also meaty to read this summer, find it!

(From my Bookstagramming)

Particularly Good Bits:


What a tricky, tangled science (p. 92).

Family was family, but you didn't always do more than politely stand each other when it came to things like fun and conversation (p. 216).

Benedick sat up, bone tired but mind still crisp as a cold apple (p. 303).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG-13 for some violence, lots of alcohol consumption by adults and minors, some innuendo (kissing and some mildly suggestive dialog), and bad language.


  1. Ewww...I do love that about the 20s, too. I think it (the era) is a bit romanticized...but who cares? And how fun! A retelling of a Shakespeare play. Makes me think of the Great Gatsby, as well, which you also know I love. Will have to add this to my wishlist. Thanks. ; )

    1. Ruth, I think we've pretty well romanticized most of the past, haven't we? The fierce struggle of the '30s, the elegant determination of the '40s, the carefree '50s, the vibrant '60s, etc. So yeah, we have. Boats borne ceaselessly into the past and so on. You really would get a big kick out of this, I think!

  2. Such a fun book. :) I'm so glad you told me about this and that I was able to get it. It's scrumptious. The characters are awesome.

    1. Olivia, oooooh! You DID read it! Huzzah! I'm so glad :-D


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