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  • Gripping Dual-Timeline Story

    Audiobook & eBook Review: I wasn't quite sure what I was getting into with this book, but I am always drawn to novels about books and writing. What a fascinating listen and read. The author and narrator pulled me right into the story, and I found myself captivated by the dual timeline story. I typically listen to audiobooks while I do other things, and I found the narrator easy and pleasant to listen to, even if he pronounced a few words strangely, like Rembrandt and celebratory. As an avid reader myself whose love of reading started when I was a child (including Nancy Drews!), I loved the literary aspects of this book, both in the past timeline with three young people who wrote adventurous children's novels that were so popular back in the day (like Nancy, the Hardy Boys, Tom Swift, et al.) and in the present with the hero being a celebrated literary fiction writer whose love of those children's books—shared across the generations with his grandfather and father—inspired his own love of words and writing. Mysteries are a part of the book on several fronts. While we, the readers, watch the world of those early 20th Century writers unfold, the present-day main character doesn’t have such knowledge. He has to delve into the mystery about them for reasons we don't fully understand until much later in the book. Somehow, his present difficulties hinge on this mystery. I loved the complicated but believable and relatable characters in this book, particularly the ones in the past timeline. They all had rich backstories that the author reveals gradually. When they all finally meet and start their children's book writing careers, the group dynamic between them becomes gripping and tenuous at times. Tom comes from a wealthy family, and he defied them by going into journalism instead of banking, the family business. Magda/Mary is a German immigrant who lost all her family in tragic ways, including one horrifying scene the author shares. Gene is a cross-dressing homosexual at a time when gender fluidity wasn’t a concept, and heterosexuality was the only acceptable romantic preference. The author did a good job describing New York and San Francisco around the turn of the previous century, during the last gasp of the Gilded Age. I felt like I was walking the streets with them and could visualize it all, especially Dreamland. As a former San Francisco Bay Area resident, I particularly liked his description of the journalist-author’s experience of the 1906 earthquake. Two of the past characters had to deal with some pretty horrific historical events. The author must have done a lot of research, first to create such a believable past and then to show the horror of historical events through the characters’ eyes. A fantastic book, whether you read or listen. I received a free copy of this audiobook and eBook, but that did not affect my review.

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