I loved this book! A heartbreakingly beautiful story of love, loyalty, and survival told against the backdrop of two World’s Fairs in Seattle: the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific exposition of 1909 and the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair. Ernest, Fahn, and Maisie are three children who find their way to the Tenderloin – a high class brothel in Seattle’s red light district – in the early 1900s. Each has their own haunting back story but they are united by a strong drive to survive and a deep caring for each other. This is a coming of age story, told in alternating segments with Ernest’s story in 1962. The mood painted is wistful, a little sad, and replete with innocence slowly seeping away and being replaced by kindness, defiance, and determination.
Fans of historical fiction will enjoy the attention to detail Ford gives to the mood and surroundings of the two time periods. Events such as Halley’s Comet, the Panama Canal, the rights of women to vote, and the details of Seattle mayoral races and their impact on the moral structure of the city are sprinkled throughout the tale. Fans of literary fiction will enjoy the delicious writing which infuses mood and sentiment throughout a plot that describes historically accurate events and the impact on a diverse set of characters. Each character – from the primaries to the secondaries – are interesting, well drawn, and bring a unique perspective to the story. All and all a great read.
The latest Maisie Dobbs book (the 12th in the series) is every bit as captivating as the earlier books, after a couple of somewhat disappointing titles. Maisie is back on her home turf, tackling a set of disturbing murders that are rooted in events from the first world war even as England declares itself at war with Germany on the eve of the second world war. Winspear perfectly captures the mood of the time – children being evacuated, schools converted to hospitals and barracks, gas masks always at the ready, and the younger generation excited about enlisting while the older generation, still recovering from the losses of the first war, despair. I love the way the series has progressed through history, drawing from historical events to provide the motivations for crimes and I love her characters who feel like old friends.
A perfect book. The story of a family – a real family – and the gentle unfolding of all of their lives. There are no major traumatic plot devices, just the very real and sometimes intentional events in anyone’s life. Their characters are drawn out in great detail with particular care to elaborate on their relationships with each other. I appreciated the lack of heavy handed messages – I could extract my own learning and make my own judgement based on my own values and perceptions. Each character had their own, presented in their own sections. We get to see, hear, and feel them all. Takes place in Portola Valley which was an extra bit of fun for me!
I’ve seen Jo Walton books – mostly in the sci-fi sections – a lot and never before went to pick them up. Seeing her speak on the Literary Tastes panel at ALA encouraged me to read the giveaway book – My Real Children. This book won the RUSA Reading List genre award for Women’s Fiction. Jo seemed a little surprised to be winning in that particular category but took it well. She talked about doing a lot of crossover fiction – fiction that crosses genres – in this case an alternative history that focuses on women and issues of interest to women (which is different than Women’s Issues with capital letters). This book was interesting to read – I like her clean narrative style. It didn’t have the emotional depth that I look for in fiction. It read like a wikipedia entry – many things to interest the brain but nothing that evokes feeling. I’m OK with this, but I miss the empathy. The plot revolves a woman sliding into dementia who remembers living two distinctly different lives that forked from a single decision about whether or not to marry a specific man. Jo handles this cleanly and does a great job of portraying these different worlds. There is a little bit of discussion as to how this one decision of one woman could have had such an impact on world events, but frankly I found that a bit hand-wavy and disappointing. Still, a good, imaginative exploration of some possible results of the decisions we make every day.
It’s so hot these days that I couldn’t handle anything that required thought so I picked up a cozy mystery from my ALA haul. Deadly Desires at Honeychurch Hall by Hannah Dennison. Readable, ok characters, a little stupid. It’s a little irritating that much is being made of a kind of connection to “Downton Abbey” but it’s really a tenuous connection at best. A manor house figures not too prominently in the story and a young girl takes a position as a maid in the house in order to better prepare herself for an audition for the Downton Abbey series. That’s it! Pleasant enough read if you like cozies. Didn’t stress me out before bedtime 🙂