Children of Liberty by Paullina Simons

Title: Children of Liberty
Author: Paullina Simons

Genre: Fiction (Historical / early 20th century / Boston / Italian Immigrant / Boston Brahmin / Culture Clash / Prequel)
Publisher/Publication Date: William Morrow Paperbacks (2/26/2013)
Source: TLC Book Tours

Rating: Meh.
Did I finish?: I did not -- I stopped at 104 pages.
One-sentence summary: The story of a Sicilian immigrant, Gina, and a Boston brahmin, Harry, in 1899 Boston.
Reading Challenges: Historical Fiction, Immigrant Stories

Do I like the cover?: I do -- although it evokes Colonial fiction for me rather than turn-of-the-20th-century.

I'm reminded of...: Ann Chamberlin, Jennifer Chiaverini, David John

First line: There had been a fire at Ellis Island the year before Gina came to America with her mother and brother in 1899, and so instead of arriving at the Port of New York, they had set sail into the Port of Boston.

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow? I can't objectively say.

Why did I get this book?: So many people raved about Simons' other books.

Review: From the first line, I knew this wasn't my book. Tell-not-show is my reader-ly pet peeve, especially in historical fiction, and the opening chapters felt heavy with telling. I ended up DNFing this book at 104 pages as I just couldn't stand Simons' writing style.

Set in 1899, Sicilian Gina -- on the cusp of turning 15 -- emigrates to the US with her mother and older brother. Upon landing in Boston, they meet Harry Barrington and Ben Shaw, Boston brahmins who manage apartments for newly arrived immigrants (they're the nicest slumlords in history). Ben is hot for Gina, but we the reader know Harry secretly wants her, five year age difference, economic status, and cultural backgrounds be damned. (Also, this is a prequel to Simons' wildly popular Tatiana and Alexander books, featuring Alexander's parents. Even without having read those three books, I had a hunch where this was going.)

Actually, I can't say for certain that's what happened, having stopped just one hundred pages in, but Simons isn't subtle with her set up nor the way she unfolds the story. Gina is childish but winsome, exaggeratedly naive and yet unconsciously sexual; she skips up church stairs but also rebelliously unpins her hair during a candlelit dinner with the two strange men she just met. She's a sweet, naive 14 year old who relishes rendering men speechless.

Ben Shaw is related to Robert Gould Shaw, and for any reader who doesn't know who he is, Simons stops just short of describing him as Matthew Broderick in Glory. Harry Barrington (who, I admit, I kept calling Harry Barry in my head) is cold and bemused and aloof, unimpressed with Ben's hot interest in Gina, telegraphing to all their eventual getting together-ness.

Simons infodumps by having Ben and Harry do this frenetic bantering thing -- which was exhausting -- but Gina finds it delightful, of course.  It gave great historical context to early 20th century Boston, but it felt so unnatural and forced, I couldn't shake the feeling of getting a lecture.

In addition to the characters, I found Simons' writing style to be off-putting: she has this weird joke-y commentary thing going on with Harry's scenes, while we're omniscient third person with Gina. From a dinner with Harry and company:
"...The bananas need to be collected, appraised, counted, packaged and crated. Someone has to do all this."

"And someone has to make the crates," Herman said, seeing the nails because all he carried was a hammer.

"First they have to procure the lumber to make the crates," Orville cut in, seeing the nails because all he carried was a hammer.

"Absolutely," Ben agreed, who carried a number of tools with him. (p71)
And from the aforementioned candlelit dinner with Gina, her brother, and Ben and Harry:
He kicked the chair again, harder. She looked over at him. What, she mouthed with irritation. He gestured to her hair with his eyes.

You want me to tie up my hair, she rhetorically mutely asked him. Fine, here you go. Raising her hands to her head, she pulled out all the pins and laid them on the table, in front of her plate. ... (p37)
I will say, she makes her characters big and bold and strong, and if you like those flavors in your fiction, you might enjoy this one.  For me, everyone grated, so much so, that by page 64 I was counting down those last forty as I worked my way to one hundred.

Be sure to check out the other blogs on the tour as folks loved this book way more than I, and Simons has a huge fanbase.  This one just didn't hit me the right way, but doesn't mean it won't strike you just fine!

*** *** ***

GIVEAWAY!

I'm thrilled to offer a copy of Children of Liberty to one lucky reader; to enter, fill out this brief form. Open to US/Canadian readers, ends 3/15.

Comments

  1. It sounded ok until you described the info-dumping. Using dialogue for that is often worse than just regular description info-dumping. The first extract you've added is really tedious. The story sounds fine, so it's a pity, but I think you did really well to get even that far if those elements continued all the time!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I rather get my info dump via narrative description rather than dialogue but I've seen reviews praising this book for using convo to set the time/era so it works for some!

      Delete
  2. Interesting that you think the cover evokes Colonial fiction - to me it evokes: "romance novel." Actually I liked the dialogue scenes you quoted! :--) (but this is why we have different books for different folks! LOL)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hilarious -- I love how elements strike readers differently. There might be an excerpt of the first chapter available online if you wanted to read at length although if you like these bits, I think you'll like the book!

      Delete
  3. Simons The Bronze Horseman is one of my all time favorite books, I would highly recommend that one. I am sorry to see that this one is not as well written.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Everyone raves about that book -- I still have it on my TBR to try sometime!

      Delete
  4. I felt the same way about this book. I was so disappointed. However, I wouldn't let it deter you from reading some of her other books. The Bronze Horseman is amazing and one of my favorite books ever.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm definitely going to give The Bronze Horseman a try -- almost every blogger I know adored it!

      Delete
  5. I love The Bronze Horseman books. I've been wanting to read the prequel so thank you for the chance.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Everyone I know loves that trilogy -- I need to try it!

      Delete
  6. I don't think I could stand this one for as long as you did. The seductive fourteen year old would have pissed me off, the men who are crazy about her would also make me really mad. I am surprised that you gave it 100 pages. I would have stopped at 50.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I wish I had stopped at 50! But for a 400 page book, I felt like I had to give it a chance...

      Delete
  7. I haven't read this author, but this one does not seem like my cup of tea at all.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Just stopping by to express my disappointment once again. Sometimes I feel bad about how often I end up writing negative reviews for my TLC books, though I love them a lot for still wanting me to review stuff. At least I like The Passing Bells trilogy. That's three good reviews. #phew

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know, I'm so with you! I hate panning a book -- and I know I write more about books I dislike because I want to prove what didn't work for me so folks can decide for themselves -- but I'm afraid it makes me look all rant-y.

      Delete
  9. oh no. I haven't read her books yet but I've heard good things about The Bronze Horseman. This doesn't sound promising though. oh well, I'm at hold on library for that...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It could just be me! At least one person on this tour really loved this book so I might have the broken tastes.

      Delete
  10. While I did finish this book I wasn't really a big fan of it either. All the political talk and Ben's obsession with bananas was distracting for me. This is my first book by the author but I have heard such good things about her Bronze Horseman series that I will most likely give it a try.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I agree, I hate novels that tell the reader what to think and see.
    Ann

    ReplyDelete
  12. Darn, I'm sorry this one didn't work for you Audra, but thanks as always for being on the tour.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Book Review & Giveaway: The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

Winter 2017 Bloggiesta To Do Post

The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin

Book Review & Giveaway: Lost Boy by Christina Henry