Whenever you read a good book, somewhere in the world a door opens to allow in more light.
I'm just trying to light up the world as much as I can one SciFi/paranormal/fantasy/space opera/time travel book at a time.
Well well well...this was something... something wonderful. Dreamland turned out to be an excellently written Historical Fiction whodunit set in New York more than a century ago. The foundation and general demeanor of this chronological opus seemed to be very well researched. Having grown up in Manhattan Beach Brooklyn, the whole atmosphere of the book felt incredibly familiar. I formed an instant connection, a tether to the heart and soul of the story, due to the sheer authenticity of the backdrop. Sure, the fine details were different, as would be expected with such a generational gap between the story's setting and my own experiences, but this period's Coney Island and its surroundings were undeniably congruent with my many many childhood memories. It was as if I just left mere days ago... and if I lived over a hundred years ago... BUT since I didn't, I found myself torn between being sad that I wasn't around to see some of the country's greatest technological advancements AND being ecstatic with my modern day rights as a woman (this of course was the clear winner). I love my right to vote, to earn equal pay as a man, to wear comfy bathing suits or even pants if I'd like.
Anywho, I saw this book as an homage to Women. It showcased a few strong female characters including (but not limited to) our MC Margaret (aka Peggy), her sister Lydia and even her aunt Helen who bravely circumvented the family's united front (and best interests) by warning Peggy of a possible familial plotter planning her demise. It was intense and extremely satisfying. Peggy was accessible, spunky and likeable. She exhibited grace, tenacity, honor and poise all while operating under the heavy thumb of her uncle David, the family's heir apparent Ben and Society as a whole. She was unafraid to stand up for those she loved and defended her admirable morals with vigor. Lydia, on the other hand, was a quiet type of strong. She stoically held her own against a stifling, overprotective family, a capricious fiance and a world looking to put her in her place. She emphatically vowed to be a proponent for Women's rights and her sibling relationship with Peggy was both compelling and envious.
What was the actual Trifecta of Awesomeness (Writing Quality + Character Development + World Development) like? Well, good thing you asked... ummmm thought... whatever! Dremland's pacing was spot on. The writing was beautific with period appropriate dialogue that was neither flowery nor verbose yet extremely satisfying. The characters were well fleshed out and the world building was elegant and exceedingly rich. These touches left me feeling like an actual participant in the story rather than a mere voyeur and it was fantastic!
As fantastic as it was, it did feel like a guilty sort of enjoyment because this poignant book illustrated some major biases of this bygone era. The injustices included the socioeconomic diaspora of the immigrant working class as well as the disparity between the sexes. What was considered to be acceptable, expected and tolerated behavior? In response we were given a tiny, seemingly plausible, peek into the lives and appetites of the Rich as well as a glimpse into the mindset, behavior, and treatment of the immigrant population a century ago. Sadly it was not too far off from some modern day conditions/expectations AND not only were the foreigners discriminated against but Women's conditions were stifling and (at times) abhorrent as well.
That being said I had three major gripes:
First, there was a crazy obsessed crazy person who may or may not have been unravelling at the seams. This could certainly work nicely in a story but here it was just confusing. Was he or was he not in love with our MC? Was he the one trying to kill her? Was he the one responsible for the local women's deaths? Was he schizophrenic? Was he an alien? Who knows? Well, we only SORT of know at the end (which is what makes things confusing) but still... I'm not telling.
Second, there was a glaring case of insta-love whereby "I love you(s)" were exchanged by both parties after just 2 meetings... a big No-No for me.
Third, some chapters jumped around and switched topics and voices without preamble or segue. These jumps made things feel incongruent and violently yanked me out of the story's flow. I ended up having to backtrack to find the train of thought again WHICH, needless to say, was jarring and exceedingly frustrating.
This was an ethereal gem that harkened back to a "freely discriminating " "simpler" era that has passed in years but whose mindset has never been fully outgrown BUT... on the other hand... we got authentic, poignant writing, a wonderfully well rounded cast and a lush, robust World... who could ask for more? This book has it all!
If you are a Historical Fiction lover or an admirer of Whodunits in general then this book will certainly resonate with you! I am not a regular when it comes to those genres. Although after having read this book, I can definitely see the appeal. If you're on the fence about testing these genres let me be the first (or 100th) to tell you that a book like this one could easily make a convert out of you or me.
What are my final two cents? Well, that's easy, I think you should go ahead and give Dreamland a try... you'll thank me later.
*** I was given a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review ***