Immersed in the underbelly of the theatre world in the gritty streets of Sydney in 1973, this addictive debut will have you wondering just how dangerous ambition – and love – can be.
It’s opening night. The stage is set, the houselights have dimmed and the handsome male lead is waiting. This is your time. Your chance to prove you are so much more than the understudy.
You have worked so hard and would have done almost anything to get here. But not what they are accusing you of – never that. It’s simply bad luck that Australia’s darling of opera has gone missing, throwing the spotlight on you just as the whole world is watching history in the making.
But the show must go on and it’s all down to you. Take a deep breath and get ready to perform the role of your life.
The Understudy is a thrilling story of mystery and intrigue in the world of professional opera singers set against the iconic background of the Sydney Opera House in the 1970s and rural Australia in the 1950s.
When understudy Sophie gets the chance to star as the lead role in Madama Butterfly with handsome Italian tenor Armando Cecchi, her excitement is tempered by the mysterious disappearance of leading lady Margaret Gardiner. Not only is Margaret gone but everyone thinks that Sophie must know what happened to her and her relationship with Armando is all over the papers.
The 1950s timeline tells us more about how Margaret became the overbearing leading lady and provides clues about what happened to make her disappear in the 1970s.
I particularly enjoyed the 1970s setting of Sydney and the Opera House, which was inspired by the author’s own experiences performing there for its opening performance. The power plays between the performers was brilliantly executed and I thoroughly recommend this debut novel.
Title: The Understudy
Author: Julie Bennett
Published: Simon & Schuster Australia (March 2, 2022)
Format: Ebook, 464 pages
Goodreads Reviews: The Understudy