Top critical review
Doorstop book with slow beginning, but better as it progresses.
Reviewed in the United States on November 14, 2019
First of all, it's worth mentioning that this novel is 610 pages while most books of this genre clock in closer to 325 pages. If you decide to read this, plan on investing a fair amount of time just due to the sheer page count.
Interesting subject matter. Set in the time of the Depression, it is an era that is often neglected in fiction while WWII fiction abounds. Some of the jobs programs of the time period, bootlegging, and union organization all are fertile ground for a novelist's research and imagination. Also, the main characters are well-written and multidimensional (and not always likable) and the small town social structure well addressed. The twists and turns of the major mystery were intriguing and kept me guessing through most of the narrative.
While I am happy to read long, involved novels, in this case, I think the book would have been better had there been more significant editing and possible elimination of some of the characters. There are flaws here that significantly reduced my enjoyment of it:
- too many characters are floating in an out, many of whom don't add much to the storyline
- some of the more minor characters have similar names (Miss Betts and Miss Becks) which adds to the confusion, and because these minor roles are not fleshed-out, they ran together in my mind . I spent a fair amount of time going back and getting clear on who was who. And it wasn't always necessary but I didn't know that at the time.
- while I love shifting POV, there was just too much of it here. When you throw in the letters and the daydreaming sequences, it's overwhelming without adding value.
- some of the writing is repetitious to the point of annoyance. I understood that the temperature was hot the after the first three or four times it was mentioned, I didn't need the ongoing (and ongoing and ongoing) description of the heat and how much everyone was sweating, and what part of their clothing was saturated with sweat, and what activities they were engaged in to alleviate the impact of the heat, and what activities they didn't engage in since it was too hot to do so. Where was the editor ?
Bottom line: Much to like about the novel such as the subject matter and intrigue. Almost painfully slow beginning is replaced by more fluid movement of the story line around the mid-point. Too many objectives by the author created a book that is massive and scattered - would have been better to break it into two books, more tightly written.