Posts tagged with "Historical Fiction"
New York City, 2016, Rose Lewis is a journalist who is working at a job she doesn't particularly care for. Her relationship status would be considered complicated at best and she's caring for her elderly father. She's living with her divorced boyfriend in a condo in the renovated Barbizon Hotel. It's here where she meets an elderly woman with a veil covering her face. From the doorman, she learns the woman was involved in a mysterious scandal back in the 1950s. The reporter in Rose is intrigued and can't let this go until she finds out every last detail about who the woman is and what happened to cause her to wear a veil.
New York City, 1952, Darby McLaughlin just stepped off the train from Ohio. Enrolled in Katherine Gibbs, Darby plans on making a career as a secretary. She's naive and has low self-esteem. After a run-in with some mean girls on her floor, Darby is ready to scurry back home when she meets Esme, a maid at the hotel. Esme helps Darby start to break out of her shell and explore new things. But Esme has a domineering influence over Darby that starts to take her down a dangerous path and ultimately leads to tragedy.
Davis illuminates past and present New York City, taking readers all over the city from Brooklyn to Harlem, eating at 50’s cafes, listening to jazz musician greats in nightclubs, and creating a mystery and love story all in one. I was intrigued by the twists and turns of the mystery, but I most enjoyed the history of the building and time period.
The backbone of the story was derived from the actual transcripts of the Senate hearings that took place to investigate the tragedy. Alcott's novel humanizes the tragedy, fictionalizing what happened to the real survivors of lifeboat #1 after the ship sank. Why were there only 12 people in that lifeboat, when it could have held 50-60? Lady Lucille Duff Gordon, who in the early years of the twentieth century was the one of the top names in the fashion world, was actually in lifeboat #1, along with her husband Cosmo. In real life, Lady Duff, as she was commonly referred to, was a driven, nasty, tough woman. Alcott gives her this persona in The Dressmaker, but with a hidden softer side as well. She hires Tess Collins as her apprentice seamstress just before they board the Titanic. In the aftermath, Tess stands firm against Madame Lucille's pressure, manipulations and lies about what actually happened, determined to be a success in the U.S. and make it on her own talent. With the Senate hearings conducted by Senator William Alden Smith as a backdrop, The Dressmaker examines the choices people make when faced with a life-threatening situation and how they live with those choices afterward. The impressive caste of characters also makes this believable and intriguing history - the "Unsinkable Molly Brown;" Pinky Wade, the indominable New York Times reporter; Tess's two suitors, Jim and Jack, who also survived the disaster; and Elinor Glyn, Lady Duff's sister, a real-life famous actress and author.
1845. New York City forms its first police force. The great potato famine hits Ireland. These two seemingly disparate events will change New York City. Forever.
Timothy Wilde tends bar near the Exchange, saving every dollar and shilling in hopes of winning the girl of his dreams. But when his dreams literally incinerate in a fire devastating downtown Manhattan, he finds himself disfigured, unemployed, and homeless. His older brother obtains Timothy a job in the newly minted NYPD, but he is highly skeptical of this untested police force. And he is less than thrilled that his new beat is the notoriously down-and-out Sixth Ward-at the border of Five Points, the world's most notorious slum.
One night while returning from his rounds, heartsick and defeated, Timothy runs into a little slip of a girl --a girl not more than ten years--dashing through the dark in her nightshift . . . covered head to toe in blood.
Timothy knows he should take the girl to the House of Refuge, yet he can't bring himself to abandon her. Instead, he takes her home, where she spins wild stories, claiming that dozens of bodies are buried in the forest north of 23rd Street. Timothy isn't sure whether to believe her or not, but, as the truth unfolds, the reluctant copper star finds himself engaged in a battle for justice that nearly costs him his brother, his romantic obsession, and his own life.
The author, Sue Monk Kidd, adds fictional dimensions to the history of the Grimkes. Through these fictional accounts, we learn a lot about actual history. We become acquainted with the relationships between children slaves & plantation owners’ children, religious dynamics of the era, family relationships, the lives of slaves and the abolitionist movement as the story progresses. The plot, while slow to start, really picks up momentum about halfway through.
Having been awarded a scholarship to study architecture at the Ecole Speciale in Paris in 1937 was no small feat for Andras Levi, a poor Hungarian-Jew from the small Hungarian town of Konyar. He arrived from Budapest with only a single suitcase and a mysterious letter he had promised to deliver to a C. Morgenstern. He makes friends with some fellow Jewish students, allying with them against increasing Nazi threats. He falls in love with C. Morgenstern - Klara - a beautiful Hungarian ballet instructor nine years his senior with a hauntingly dark past. With war threatening, Andras is forced to return to Hungary and Klara insists on coming with him. Andras and his two brothers find themselves pawns in the Nazi chess game of using Hungary to advance their invasion of Russia, sent out in work details for months at a time in labor camps that were little more than concentration camps. By the autumn of 1939, all of Europe erupted in the full-blown catastophe of World War II. Even Hungary, thinking themselves safe in allying with Germany, was been invaded by the Nazis. As in Dr. Zhivago, lovers Andras and Klara cannot escape the horrors of war, but find courage in their love for each other and in their families.
I must admit that I balked a bit at reading a 600 page novel that appeared to be yet another novel about World War II. I was surprised to find myself unable to put it down, taken in by the grandeur of Paris opera houses and the Parisian architecture. Andras' simple yet close family ties in Hungary contrasting with his new life in Paris as student, friend and lover was beautifully portrayed by the author, Julie Orringer. As the inevitable history unfolded with the characters caught up in it, I found myself totally absorbed and caring very much about how they would survive the war. The Invisible Bridge is a novel of epic proportions but so well written that it felt intimate.