Friday, April 13, 2007

1919 Misfortune's End by Paula Phelan

Books Completed: 49
Completion Date: March 2007
Publication Year: 2007
Pages: 240
Received as a Review Copy in 2007

Two American families face a year of enormous significance, turmoil and change. The War to End All Wars was over. The Plague of 1918 had swept through urban areas with a vengeance, killing more than a million citizens and then mysteriously subsided. But instead of celebrating their survival through these excruciating times, four million workers went on strike, inflation hit 500%, and prohibition became law - unleashing the pestilence of organized crime. Good and bad times live side by side as people move from a simpler past through tumultuous times and reach out in search of a new future. The hope of carving out a new life motivates our characters who are enjoying early advancements in radio communication, entertainment and the inventions for the home. Although the characters did not know it at the time, the groundwork for the roaring 20s was being set with the casting off of old ideas, a devil may care attitude and a relaxing of social mores. The year 1919 is a reminder that things can always get worse, but through the vibrancy of the human spirit, things can get better too.
The problem with being a bit of a moody reader is that I do not always read books when I should. I really meant to read this book when I received it, and I started it, but it got put aside until I finished it at the very end of last month. First up, I like the cover image to this book. It's old fashioned, and the people actually look like they could have lived in 1919. They are even not smiling, very realistic. A lot of historical fiction nowadays you look at and you can tell that it is obviously a modern model or style.

One of my favourite things about this book is that the author works Helen Keller into the story. It got me thinking about how much I have enjoyed reading about her off and on throughout the years, but it has been a while since I read anything pertaining to her. It was a nice reminder of what was missing off my reading lists. Relatively speaking, this is a very short book, and considering it covers a year and two families, I think the author manages to make the page length work. Sometimes with short books the action seems rushed, and if this book covered a decade or so, that might have been a problem, but she limits it to a year, and it works out quite well for her.

My only problem with this book is how she has not just chapter breaks, but she has each chapter broken into small sections with a header that tells you what is going to happen in the section. I prefer a book to have chapters than none at all, but I prefer not so many section breaks. I am not sure if I had flipped through this book at a store I would have bought it for that very reason. I read a lot, I am allowed to be slightly picky from time to time. Sometimes pickiness is misguided, though. I am glad that I got the chance to read this book. 1919 is the year after everything and before the nation was at war again, but she covers the aftermath well and the effects it had on people in the world.

It also mentions the Boston molasses incident. I do not know how many people know of that particular occurance, but it is so crazy to think that it was a problem and it ended peoples' lives. Death by molasses, a horrible way to go, I would think.

Anyways, a good novel about a year that does not normally get that much attention (although, the molasses incident is mentioned in The Birth House as well).


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