I just loved this book. It’s 1911 and Peggy Battenberg works in the Moonrise Bookstore in New York. But Peggy is no ordinary shop girl. She’s an heiress belonging to one of the countries richest Jewish families. Then one day, while making martinis for an eminent – if rather salacious author – and his agent, Peggy is dragged away by her Uncle David to spend the summer in New York’s illustrious and hedonistic Coney Island with her extended family. But this will be far from a jolly holiday. They will be accompanied by her younger sister Lydia’s betrothed – Henry Taul – and his mother so they can all ‘bond’. And so the mystery and murder begin. Peggy meets and falls for impoverished artist Stefan, who shows his Futurist paintings at a tiny Gallery inside Dreamland. Stefan is Serbian and therefore hated by everyone who believes him to be an anarchist and trouble-maker. Dreamland is one of three funfairs on Coney Island and probably the most famous. It really existed. Look it up. I read about it first in Alice Hoffman’s The Museum of Extraordinary Things. Peggy is the most wonderful hero. Naive to the point of simplicity, her eyes are opened during this ‘holiday’ to just how unfair life can be when you are not rich or entitled. Let alone an ‘alien’. I don’t think she realises that even though her family are fabulously wealthy that they will always be persona non grata amongst old money because they are Jewish. I enjoyed The Blue – my first book by Nancy Bilyeau – but this one was way more exciting and the character of Peggy will stay with me forever.
Many thanks to The Pigeonhole for giving me the opportunity to read along with my fellow Pigeons.
I’m not sure why a number of people have said this was an ‘easy read’. I found it heartbreaking and so sad at times. Poor Colleen being given up at birth and then losing her little sister Bryony. No wonder her life is so messed up. Poor Celia having lost her baby daughter. Poor Anna having given up her baby. I could go on. Poor everyone! But this was a well crafted and superbly written book. So many red herrings we started to suspect all sorts of people. I know it was written by two different authors writing in different ‘voices’ for Ella and Colleen but after a while I didn’t really notice. I was worried it might interrupt the flow but it never did. I had a couple of reservations but I can’t say more due to spoilers. Just curl up with a hot chocolate and read into the night. Fabulous.
Many thanks to The Pigeonhole for allowing me to read along with the other Pigeons and the authors.
Having read Her Name Was Rose I was already a fan of Claire Allan. However, I didn’t like this book as much as I hoped I would. Like is a strange word to use as it’s the harrowing tale of Joe McKee, a paedophile, who was loved and admired in his community, except by his daughter and step-daughter who both hated him. When he is dying they are asked to come and look after him but neither of them are understandably keen. What makes this book stand out though is the relationship between the two women – they hate each other. Joe left his wife and daughter Ciara to be with Natalie who has a daughter Heidi. But Natalie dies soon after and Heidi has to stay with Joe, who doesn’t seem to have to legally adopt her or even apply to the court. Heidi’s natural grandparents feel they are too old and their house is too small to take Heidi. And that’s the bit that really annoyed me. If she were my granddaughter, I would take her in no matter how small my house or how old I was. Heidi is not a toddler. They would manage. Instead they leave her with a man who has already left one family and terrifies Heidi. Most of the story revolves around Ciara and Heidi fighting which got a bit tiresome after a while. There a few other characters who get involved when Joe dies and a number of clever twists but for me it wasn’t enough.
Thanks to Netgalley for an ARC in exchange for a review.
I can’t believe I’m only giving this three stars as it’s so well written, heart-breaking and sad. It’s a tale of family love, separation, sorrow, misunderstanding and tragedy. That should make a wonderful read, shouldn’t it? But something is missing. Once we discover the two threads that form the basis of the story it just dragged and dragged till in the end I just wanted to scream ‘just tell her and get it over with’. I waited for the twist that would surely come. But no. It really went out not with a bang but a whimper.
But the other things that frustrated me. The party. I just didn’t get it. Twenty years she had waited for a birthday party that would make up for the wonderful wedding she never had. It made her look a bit bonkers to be honest. They could have renewed their vows after 10 years or so. We got married in a registry office and renewed our vows after twenty five years in church because my husband knew it meant a lot to me (no wedding dress or anything over the top). Then there was Adam’s treatment of her in the first few years. She forgave him so easily and put it down to his youth. Really? More selfishness.
Having said that I rocketed through it in two sittings but it would have been better if the whole thing had been cut by half. Then it would have been at least 4 stars.
Thanks to Netgalley for an ARC.
From Spain during the Civil War to Chile, then exile in Venezuela and back to Chile, this beautiful novel covers a period of history that most of us no nothing about. It follows the lives of Victor Dalmau and his wife Roser from youth to old age. It’s a sweeping epic of a novel with a host of likeable and not so likeable fictional characters. The politicians such as Franco, Salvador Allende and Pinochet are all real, as is the poet Pablo Neruda. Having loved The House of the Spirits I looked forward to a touch of magical realism (my favourite genre), but there was none. I would have given it five stars but for two reasons. Firstly (as others have pointed out) it reads at times like a history lesson and secondly it’s a bit like a joke without a punchline. There are no surprises or twists and turns as in the books I usually read. It is linear going from point A to point B in chronological order. The writing is beautiful and the story engaging but for me it doesn’t follow the introduction, conflict, crescendo, resolution, happy-ever-after-ending of the type of stories I am used to. It kind of meanders from one place and time to another until everyone is old or dead, just with a lot of drama and bloodshed along the way. It is probably why I never read non-fiction.
However, don’t let that put you off. It’s a beautiful story and well worth reading.
I wish to thank NetGalley for allowing me to read an advanced copy of this book.
This isn’t my usual genre but I thought I would give it a go. To start with I didn’t like Vicky at all. She is so hard done by and finds it easier to walk away than actually have a conversation with the people in her life she thinks are criticising her. In fact she got on my nerves so much that I put the book away for a week and started another one. Finally I came back to it and once Caro and her family were introduced I read into the night finishing it before work this morning. I cried throughout much of the second half because it was so real. Haven’t we all fallen out with family members though most of us haven’t walked away from our mothers or toddlers. Or had a row with someone to find they had died before we could put things right. That’s why I never go to sleep on an argument. At least Vicky found out that the problems were mostly to do with her self-esteem or lack of it but to say anymore would give away too much. As for India! Boy what a bitch. And her husband Andy. A snivelling, controlling little s*&t.
This was such a great read. So heart-wrenching. Loved it.