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Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog THE OTHER MRS. SAMSON by Ralph Webster (@Ralph_Webster) Biographical historical fiction for fans of women’s stories and XIX and XX narratives #RBRT

Hi all:

I bring you novel/fictionalised biography that I found fascinating. I hope you find it as interesting as I did.

The Other Mrs. Samson by Ralph Webster

The Other Mrs. Samson by Ralph Webster

Surviving two wars, sharing one husband, searching for answers.

A hidden compartment in a black lacquer cabinet left in an attic reveals the secrets of two incredible women: Hilda, born and raised in one of the wealthiest Jewish families in turn-of-the-century San Francisco, and Katie, whose early life in Germany is marked by tragedy and death. Their lives are forever entwined by their love of the same man, the brilliant and compassionate Dr. Josef Samson.

From the earliest, rough-and-tumble days of San Francisco, through the devastation of the Great War in Berlin and the terrors of Vichy France, and then to a new yet uncertain life in New York City, their stories span the most tumultuous events of the twentieth century. In the end, one of these women will complete the life of the other and make a startling discovery about the husband they share.

https://www.amazon.com/Other-Mrs-Samson-Ralph-Webster-ebook/dp/B08NYYWMHN/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Other-Mrs-Samson-Ralph-Webster-ebook/dp/B08NYYWMHN/

https://www.amazon.es/Other-Mrs-Samson-Ralph-Webster-ebook/dp/B08NYYWMHN/

Author Ralph Webster

About the author:

Award-winning author Ralph Webster received worldwide acclaim for his first book, A Smile in One Eye: A Tear in the Other, which tells the story of his father’s flight from the Holocaust. Voted by readers as a Goodreads 2016 Choice Awards Nominee for Best Memoir/Autobiography, A Smile in One Eye: A Tear in the Other, his second book, One More Moon, and now his third book, The Other Mrs. Samson, are proven book club selections for thought-provoking and engaging discussions. Whether in person or online, Ralph welcomes and values his exchanges with readers and makes every effort to participate in conversations about his books. Now retired, he lives with his wife, Ginger, on the Outer Banks of North Carolina in the U.S.

Please contact Ralph via his websites to schedule via Zoom, Skype, or in person for your book club.

https://www.amazon.com/Ralph-Webster/e/B01HRYKN9Y/

https://ralphwebster-author.com/

My review:

I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team and I was provided an ARC copy of the novel I freely chose to review. Well, I’m not sure “novel” is the best word to define this book, but more on that, later.

As the description of the book suggests, this is the story of two women, told by them, although somewhat indirectly. This is one of those books (they are also quite a few movies, mostly adaptations of novels), which follow similar plots, or use a similar “frame” to tell a story: somebody finds a book, diary, collection of letters, etc., sometimes belonging to a parent, another relative, a friend, sometimes to somebody they’ve never met, and then, as if in a long flashback, we get to hear (or see) the story of that other person. Most of these stories tend to include some secret or major revelation towards the end, which casts a new light on the characters and their lives. In this book, a couple have inherited a piece of furniture (a lacquered cabinet) from an elderly woman they met through one of their relatives (they had been friends for decades and met regularly to have lunch and share news), and whom they became friendly with after their relative’s passing. By pure chance, they discover a secret drawer in the cabinet and inside there are (with some extra bits) two diaries/documents narrating the stories of two women who’d been married to the same man at very different moments in time (and also at very different historical periods). What makes the book particularly interesting is that in the acknowledgments’ section, the author talks about the process of development of the book, the help he got translating letters, etc., and also the fact that he changed some names, so this is not a work of fiction in its entirety, but rather a fictionalisation of the lives of two women. This makes sense, especially considering that the author (whose work I hadn’t read before) is well known for his work writing/adapting memoirs and biographies. The note doesn’t clarify how much of the content is fictionalised, but I found the category of biographical historical fiction that the book is classed under more than appropriate.

What I most liked about the book is the historical sweep and the amount of detail about the periods it covers, and also the two main characters (or the two narrators, to be more specific), Hilda and Katie. As Hilda’s narration also includes details about her grandparents and her parents, we get treated to a chronicle of life from the early XIX century in Germany —the immigration of her ancestors to the United States (and San Francisco in particular) from old Europe, a description of her own life as a well-off debutante and a young woman —through to the late XIX and early XX century. We hear about the fires, the earthquake, we read about what travelling was like, and also about Hilda’s visits to Germany and her contact with a distant cousin who would become her husband, Josef. She moves to Germany, totally changing her husband’s life, and acknowledges her difficulties adapting to a new place, to living with somebody else, and also, later, describes how their life is affected by WWI. Hilda can be spoilt and whimsical, but she is determined to have her own life and not to simply become a doctor’s wife. Katie, on the other hand, is much younger than her husband, her social circumstances and education are very different to those of Josef (and Hilda) and they first meet while she is looking after his elderly mother. This takes place much later (in the late 1920s-early 1930s), and we follow her through a somewhat odd courting, then she joins him in France (he is Jewish and leaves Germany soon after Hitler comes into power), and she adapts her life to his, following him in his increasingly desperate attempts to leave Europe. The two narratives are in the first person, and Hilda and Katie have pretty different personalities which clearly come across in their parts of the story. While Hilda is more expressive and outgoing, Katie has seen a lot of suffering from a very young age, prefers quiet pursuits, and is happy to try to fit in with others and avoid confrontation.

This is a book full of little details that play important parts in the story, objects that come to symbolise aspects of the relationship of the two women with their husbands and also illustrate their personalities (while Hilda doesn’t get on with Josef’s mother and insists on standing her ground, Katie adapts to Josef’s mother’s somewhat overbearing personality and becomes a beloved companion of the old woman; Hilda dislikes the piano seat Josef can’t bear to part with but only convinces him to reupholster it, while Katie convinces him to get a two-seater piano bench; Katie’s father gives her a clock that becomes a stand-in for the past and for old memories and times). As we read the story we come to realise that Josef’s life has changed little, and we can’t help but wonder about the story of these women and about the man himself. There is a twist at the end, which helps explain some things, but it leaves as many questions unanswered as it solves.

I am not sure that there is anything I dislike about the book. By its own nature and the way the story is narrated, there is a lot of telling, but the stories told are so fascinating that I didn’t mind at all, and other than the occasional German word (which is usually translated or explained in the text), the text is easy to read with no sudden jumps in point of view or chronology, apart from the framing story. Katie’s account will, perhaps, be more familiar to readers, as there has been an upsurge in stories about WWII, and I know some readers didn’t feel that part quite matched the intensity of the other, but I was intrigued by the character, her relationship with her husband and her attitude towards life (although I don’t have much, if anything, in common with her). Of course, readers who dislike telling or like elaborate plots that move the story along without a pause might feel frustrated by the story and the style of the narrative, but I liked the way the two stories fitted together and felt the technique used to tell the story is well suited to the material.

I recommend this book to readers of historical fiction, especially those interested in XIX and XX century German and American History, to people who enjoy biographies and/or fictionalised biographies, and particularly to those who like to read about women’s lives in the past. If you’re looking for a page-turner full of sensational adventures and larger-than-life characters, on the other hand, this is not the book for you. I look forward to discovering more of the author’s book and will follow his career with interest.

 Thanks to the author for the book, thanks to Rosie and to the members of the team for their ongoing support, thanks to all of you for reading, and make sure you keep safe. ♥

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Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog HOW MUCH OF THESE HILLS IS GOLD by C Pam Zhang (@hayleycamis) (@ViragoBooks) How the West was won, but not as we know it

Hi all.

I bring you a pretty amazing book today. I hope you’re all keeping safe.

How Much of These Hills is Gold by C Pam Zhang

How Much of These Hills is Gold by C Pam Zhang

‘The boldest debut of the year’ Observer

‘It is refreshing to discover a new author of such grand scale, singular focus and blistering vision’ Guardian

America. In the twilight of the Gold Rush, two siblings cross a landscape with a gun in their hands and the body of their father on their backs . . .

Ba dies in the night, Ma is already gone. Lucy and Sam, twelve and eleven, are suddenly alone and on the run. With their father’s body on their backs, they roam an unforgiving landscape dotted with giant buffalo bones and tiger paw prints, searching for a place to give him a proper burial.

How Much of These Hills is Gold is a sweeping adventure tale, an unforgettable sibling story and a remarkable novel about a family bound and divided by its memories.

‘A truly gifted writer’ Sebastian Barry, two-time Costa Book of the Year winner

‘Pure gold’ Emma Donoghue, Booker-shortlisted author of Room

‘Remarkable. It will haunt readers’ Chigozie Obioma, Booker-shortlisted author of An Orchestra of Minorities

‘Dazzling’ Daisy Johnson, Booker-shortlisted author of Everything Under

‘This book is a wonder’ Garth Greenwell, author of What Belongs to You

‘Ferocious, dark and gleaming’ New York Times bestselling author of Fates and Furies

‘I envy you your first read of this book’ R. O. Kwon, author of The Incendiaries

‘A hypnotic, virtuosic novel’ Tahmima Anam, winner of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize

https://www.amazon.com/How-Much-These-Hills-Gold-ebook/dp/B07SZL7V8B/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/How-Much-These-Hills-Gold-ebook/dp/B07SZL7V8B/

https://www.amazon.es/How-Much-These-Hills-Gold-ebook/dp/B07SZL7V8B/

Author C Pam Zhang

About the author:

Born in Beijing but mostly an artifact of the United States, C Pam Zhang has lived in thirteen cities across four countries and is still looking for home. She’s been awarded support from Tin House, Bread Loaf, Aspen Words and elsewhere, and currently lives in San Francisco.

https://www.amazon.com/C-Pam-Zhang/e/B01LZ3PS2E?

My review:

Thanks to Virago and to NetGalley for providing me an ARC copy of this novel, which I freely chose to review.

My father was a fan of Westerns, and although as a child I was tired of always having to watch old Westerns (as a young man, my father used to read the Spanish equivalent of the Western dime novels as well), I must confess that that world, its mythology, and its true history, captivate me as well. And never more so than when the stories chronicle the people who hardly ever make it into the history books (although there has been a move towards redressing that in recent years). So this novel had all the elements to intrigue me, and it is a debut novel as well. And one I won’t forget in a hurry.

This new author has been compared to Cormac McCarthy (but I’ve only read one of his novels, so I don’t feel I can comment), and her choice of characters reminded me of recent books I’ve read and reviewed by Sebastian Barry. I know it is common place to write that you’re surprised a novel has been written by a debut writer, or it is their first novel, but it is the case here, and it’s clear that the author has a talent for writing (and I don’t doubt she has worked very hard at it as well).

The novel, set around the time of the Gold Rush, is divided into four parts, covering a period of around a decade in the life of Lucy (and her sister/brother Sam). The first three parts tell the story of how they got to the situation we find them in at the beginning of the novel, in reverse chronological order (sort of). The fourth part moves forward and we see what happened to Lucy afterwards, and we meet Sam again, albeit briefly. We meet the two sisters when they lose their father (they had lost their mother a few years earlier), see them struggle to try to bury him in the appropriate way (their mother had come from China and had taught them plenty of stories and traditions that they try to follow and live by), and eventually split up. The second part chronicles the events that had happened before, providing a background story of the family and also explaining how they lost their mother. Part three is hauntingly beautiful, and rather than the third person narration from Lucy’s point of view (that grows more insightful and elaborate as the novel advances) we get a narration from Ba, her father’s point of view. It’s not clear if this is his ghost telling the story or some memory that lives on, but it is addressed to Lucy, and it explains things that she does not know, some tragic and terrific, and some beautiful and lyrical. In part four we catch up with the siblings, years later, and learn what happened next. This is historical fiction gold, a revisionist story/history of the West, and a look at some of the forgotten figures and peoples in history.

Many themes are touched upon on this novel. I’ve mentioned history, but this is history from the point of view of outsiders, who although born in the country will never be accepted, and people will always look at them as if they were an exotic plant or animal (the tiger is a symbol hovering over much of the novel), either heaping abuse at them, exploiting them for entertainment or enjoyment, or trying to turn them into object of curio and study. Race and gender are at the forefront of the novel but remain somewhat ungraspable and ambiguous (is Sam a boy in a girl’s body, or a girl whose father’s wish for a son she internalised to the point where she no longer has a will of her own, or something entirely different?). Ultimately, there are myths, lies, pretences, stories we tell others and ourselves, gold prospecting, mining, the building of the railroads, migration, different models of womanhood, of culture, of family… It’s a novel about identity and how we build ours, and how others also cast upon us their own labels and prejudices. It’s a novel about survival and about much more.

Lucy, Sam, and their parents are unforgettable characters. If Lucy is the girly-girl, studious, and prim and proper, and Sam is the tomboy/boy, always following his father, they all play specific roles in their family, and when the family breaks, it’s difficult to keep going. The young sibling is far less naïve and weak than Lucy thinks, and they are both the children of their parents in more ways than they realise. It’s impossible not to feel for these orphans and their terrible circumstances, and the author does a great job of making us share in and understand why they are how they are. The story is at times breathtakingly beautiful and at others horrifyingly ugly, true to life. Although perhaps the style of the writing and the narration might not suit all tastes, I think most readers will connect at an emotional level with the characters, empathise and suffer with them.

The writing style changes throughout the novel, growing with the main character, and becoming more articulate and less impressionistic. The beginning of the novel reminded me of Sebastian Barry’s recent book A Thousand Moons, which also has a young girl as the protagonist, and there is a strong focus on description, not only of the physical world, but also of the emotions and the feelings the character experiences as she is confronted with her personal tragedy. For all her fascination with books and the intelligence that’s supposed to be her strong point, she can be naïve at times, and places too much trust in appearances. Later in the novel she is more insightful and the writing also reflects her progressive enlightenment and what it truly means. I’ve talked about the third part of the book, which is the jewel of the crown for me, but I truly enjoyed it all, although, as usual, I’d recommend prospective readers to check a sample first.

A couple of examples from the book (although I must remind you that I read an ARC copy, so there might be changes in the final version of the book):

And Lucy is reminded that what makes Ma most beautiful is the contradiction of her. Rough voice over smooth skin. Smile stretched over sadness —this queer ache that makes Ma’s eyes look miles and miles away. Brimming with an ocean’s worth of wet.’

A land stripped of its gold, its rivers, its buffalo, its Indians, its tigers, its jackals, its birds and its green and its living. To move through this land and believe Ba’s tales is to see each hill as a burial mound with its own crown of bones. Who could believe that and survive? Who could believe that and keep from looking, as Ba and Sam do, always toward the past? Letting it drag behind them. Letting it make them into fools.’

The ending might not satisfy readers who prefer everything to be tied up and a clear conclusion, but for me, I couldn’t think of a more fitting ending. I won’t go into details and leave readers to decide.

In sum, this is a book that has a distinct style of writing, tells a fascinating story, full of myths, tales, imagination, and also some truly awful realities of a historical period that has often been written about and represented in films and popular culture, but the official depiction glosses over many of the events and ignores a lot of the people that were there as well, just because their race, gender, lifestyle choices, or a combination of those, does not fit into the traditional history books. Its characters are unforgettable, and I recommend it to readers who enjoy a different perspective on historical events and who don’t mind taking up a narrative whose style might be challenging at times but it’s ultimately rewarding. A great novel.

Thanks to the publisher and the author, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to keep safe, keep reading, reviewing, and always, keep smiling.

Categories
Blog Tour Book launch Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog #DREAMLAND by Nancy Bilyeau (@EndeavourQuill)(@Tudorscribe)A wild ride for lovers of historical fiction, amusement parks, and great female protagonists #Blogtour

Hi all!

Here I am participating in a blog tour for a book by an author that has featured before on my blog and who’s become a favourite of mine.

Dreamland by Nancy Bilyeu

DREAMLAND by Nancy Bilyeau

‘Achingly believable’ – Publishers Weekly

‘This fast-paced, engrossing novel from Bilyeau… gives readers an up-close and personal view of New York’s Gilded Age’ – Library Journal

‘Beautifully written and impeccably researched, Dreamland is a rollicking ride.’ – Fiona Davis, bestselling author of The Chelsea Girls

‘A marvelous book!’ – Ellen Marie Wiseman, bestselling author of What she Left Behind and The Life she was Given

‘Bilyeau is at the height of her talents in the immersive and gripping Dreamland‘ – Heather Webb, USA Today bestselling author

‘Bilyeau’s thrilling novel plunges deep into Dreamland’s maze of pleasure and menace’ – Marlowe Benn, bestselling author of Relative Fortunes

‘Nancy Bilyeau’s passion for history infuses her books’ – Alison Weir

The year is 1911 when twenty-year-old heiress Peggy Batternberg is invited to spend the summer in America’s Playground.

The invitation to Coney Island is unwelcome. Despite hailing from one of America’s richest families, Peggy would much rather spend the summer working at the Moonrise Bookstore than keeping up appearances with New York City socialites and her snobbish, controlling family.

But soon it transpires that the hedonism of Coney Island affords Peggy the freedom she has been yearning for, and it’s not long before she finds herself in love with a troubled pier-side artist of humble means, whom the Batternberg patriarchs would surely disapprove of.

Disapprove they may, but hidden behind their pomposity lurks a web of deceit, betrayal, and deadly secrets. And as bodies begin to mount up amidst the sweltering clamor of Coney Island, it seems the powerful Batternbergs can get away with anything… even murder.

Extravagant, intoxicating, and thumping with suspense, bestselling Nancy Bilyeau’s magnificent Dreamland is a story of corruption, class, and dangerous obsession.

What readers are saying about Dreamland…

If you enjoyed Downton Abbey and want something from that time, set in the US, but with a delicious murder mystery thrown in, you will love this book.” Goodreads reviewer, 5 *s

“I loved everything about this book and I will definitely look for more to read by Bilyeau! I enjoyed the pacing and character development so much and completely got wrapped up in the story.” NetGalley reviewer, 5 *s

“This suspenseful tale has every element of success: murder, deceit, love, corruption, perseverance, obsession, and redemption. A book that will keep you up at night rushing to the end but that will leave you wanting more once you’re finished.” Goodreads reviewer, 5 *s

http://geni.us/Kvfg9z

Here in Goodreads.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/47812578-dreamland

Author Nancy Bilyeau. Credit Joshua Kessler

About the author:

Nancy Bilyeau is the author of the historical thrillers “The Blue” and “Dreamland” and the Tudor mystery series “The Crown,” “The Chalice,” and “The Tapestry.” She is a magazine editor who has lived in the United States and Canada.

In “The Blue,” Nancy drew on her own heritage as a Huguenot. She is a direct descendant of Pierre Billiou, a French Huguenot who immigrated to what was then New Amsterdam (later New York City) in 1661. Nancy’s ancestor, Isaac, was born on the boat crossing the Atlantic, the St. Jean de Baptiste. Pierre’s stone house still stands and is the third oldest house in New York State.

Nancy, who studied History at the University of Michigan, has worked on the staffs of “InStyle,” “Good Housekeeping,” and “Rolling Stone.” She is currently the deputy editor of the Center on Media, Crime and Justice at the Research Foundation of CUNY and a regular contributor to “Town & Country” and “Mystery Scene Magazine.”

Nancy’s mind is always in past centuries but she currently lives with her husband and two children in New York City.

https://www.amazon.com/Nancy-Bilyeau/e/B005XPJYDG/

You can read about the story behind this book and what inspired the author to write it in this blog post:

http://nancybilyeau.blogspot.com/2019/08/the-journey-to-writing-my-novel.html

My review:

I thank the publisher, Endeavour Quill, for inviting me to participate in the blog tour for the launch of this book and for providing me an ARC copy of it, which I freely chose to review. This has in no way influenced my opinion.

I recently read and reviewed Bilyeau’s novel The Blue (you can check my review here) and loved it so much that I did not hesitate when I got an invitation to read her new novel and join the blog tour. Like the previous one, this book also successfully combines history with intrigue, adventures, mystery, a fantastic cast of characters, and a heroine who is trying to find her own way amid a society in turmoil due to changes in the status-quo and to international historical events.

As the description explains, the novel is set in New York and Coney Island in the summer of 1911. Peggy Batternberg, the protagonist (the author explains that she was inspired by the historical figure of Peggy Guggenheim when she created her main character), belongs to the upper class, although as she observes, her family is only a couple of generations away from very humble origins as immigrants, and they would not have figured among the very select of society a few years earlier. They are also Jewish (not very religious), and although their money protects them from the worst of prejudice and antisemitism, that does not mean it does not exist, as the novel exposes time and again. She is trying to lead her own life as a modern woman, but her family’s power and influence, and society’s double standards of morality for men and women make it difficult for her to break completely free, and she ends up having to leave her job at a bookstore and spend the summer holiday at a posh hotel near Coney Island. Of course, although the hotel is very close to the three amusement parks, including the Dreamland of the title, the clientele of both are separated by the chasm of money and social class.

Peggy is a fascinating character. She is very young, determined, and contradictory at times. She is strong but naïve, passionate and rushed, headstrong and totally unrealistic. She tries to be practical and become independent from her family, but she acknowledges that much of what she does is only possible because she has the support of her family, and she does not have to rely solely on her salary, like her colleagues at work. She lost her father when she was young, and she is aware of the kind of hypocritical behaviour the males of her family engage in, but no matter how she struggles against it, she is still trapped by the morality of the period. Following some fairly traumatic experiences with men of her own class (and the male sense of entitlement —especially of men of a certain class— runs through the novel as a theme, and unfortunately recent events only prove that things haven’t changed as much as we might like to think), it is unsurprising that she feels attracted to an artist, a futurist painter, a foreigner, and somebody who is genuinely interested in her as a person, and not as a rich heiress. I am not a fan of love at first sight (or insta-love) stories, but considering what we know of the character and of her circumstances, it is easy to understand the attraction, and let’s say that I was quite reconciled to it by the end of the story. The character is forced to question herself and her motives more than once throughout the novel, and she does grow and develop as a result.

The story is told, almost in its entirety, in the first person, from Peggy’s point of view, but there are many other characters that create a rich tapestry of both, the wealthy upper-class society of the era (there are some real historical characters that make brief guest appearances as well), and also the working class, the underclass, and the artists working at the fair. The author paints a clear picture of the Batternberg family, its power structure, the differences between male and female roles within the dynasty, and it makes for a sobering and absorbing read, especially because over the course of the story, Peggy discovers things are even worse than she thought, and the web of deceit, secrets, and false appearances is woven thick. The fact that this people of loose morals look down upon hardworking individuals without a second thought is highlighted by the murders that take place in close proximity to the hotel, and how nobody (other than Peggy) seems to care about the victims or their relatives, only about preventing anything from disturbing the elegant guests. By contrast, some of the lower-class characters, that have the most to lose if things go wrong, go out of their way to help, even at a serious personal cost.

I must admit to being quite taken by some of the secondary characters that appear in the story, and in many cases, I’d love to know more about them (the whole of Lilliput scene is amazing; Madame Kschessinska is very intriguing; the police detective; Stefan, of course; and what to say about Ben, Peggy’s cousin, a real puzzle), but I agree with many of the reviewers and Lydia, Peggy’s sister, is a favourite of mine as well. She knows her own mind, she is supportive of her sister, and she grows in strength and maturity through the story. With her like with most things and characters in the story, appearances can be deceptive.

The historical background is well achieved, and I loved the descriptions of Coney Island, the seaside hotels, the fast trains, the clothes, the incubators, the art, the buildings… It felt as if I was peering into that era, and even experiencing the heat, tasting the food, and joining in the rides. The descriptions don’t overwhelm the story but help create a realistic setting and increase our understanding of what the period and the place were like. This is a work of fiction, and although some characters and events are recreated, the novel does not claim to historical accuracy (in fact, Dreamland was no longer functioning in the summer of 1911), but I have no doubt that it will encourage readers to learn more about the period and about Coney Island.

As for the mystery side of things… There are red-herrings; there is misdirection, and several suspects, as it pertains to the genre. There is a fair amount of action, surprises, scares, and Peggy’s turn as an amateur detective is fraught with risk. Although she is neither experienced nor particularly skilled as an investigator, she makes up for it with her determination, persistence, and a good nose for choosing her collaborators. This part of the story is the one that requires a greater suspension of disbelief, but the novel is not intended to be a police procedural, and the intrigue fits well into the overall story arc and will keep readers turning the pages at a good speed.

I have already talked about the issue of gender and gender politics that is explored in the novel. Although things were moving and women were fighting for the vote, it was not easy, and if it was hard for privileged women to have a say on how their lives should be run, for working-class women it could get positively dangerous, when not lethal. The author also explores the issue of migration, the suspicion towards foreigners (despite the melting-pot mythos of the United States society), the prejudice of society and authorities towards newcomers, and this is also linked to international politics (and, of course, we readers know that the situation was about to get much worse and it would result in World War I). These subjects are well integrated into the fabric of the novel, elevating it beyond the typical historical adventure romp, and they make comparisons to current historical events unavoidable.

The writing style is compelling, with beautiful descriptions combined with a great skill in making us feel and experience the events first-hand, and a good pace, alternating between action and more contemplative scenes, without ever stalling the flow.

I’ve read some reviews that complain about the ending being somewhat rushed and sudden. It speaks to the skill of the author the fact that we don’t want the story to end, and although there are elements of it that I think could have been further developed, overall I enjoyed the ending, especially because it isn’t a conventional one.

In sum, I enjoyed the wild ride that is Dreamland. I wish I could have visited the real one, but lacking that opportunity, this is a close and satisfying second best. I congratulate the author for this great novel, and I look forward to the next.

Thanks to the publishers, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to share if you know anybody who might be interested. Oh, and in case you want to follow the blog tour…

Keep reading and smiling!

 

 

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