This is an outstanding historical saga, on a par with Pilcher’s The Shell Seekers, in its family complexity. In 1948, young war widow Chrissie seeks her family’s past. The story flashes from the idyllic English Lake District to sordid San Francisco in the early 1900s, where we see Chrissie’s grandmother’s family. Then, without warning, Chrissie contemplates running a Windermere shop meeting a young chap who’ll help her fit it out.
Breathtaking Lake District landscape contrasts with the complexity of family history in ‘Frisco. With brilliant descriptions we see Chrissie’s grandmother, Georgia, forced to marry a rotter, a businessman with the power to destroy her entire family. But she has met her true love, an English sailor she bumped into, ending up with him in the mud and filth of Fisherman’s Wharf. Having lost her dastardly husband’s much longed-for son, Georgia becomes pregnant by her lover, who she secretly meets. But the 1906 earthquake and fire changes everything for her. With her mother, sister and maid they are destitute and homeless in the big city and reduced to camping out with thousands in Golden Gate Park.
Woven into the main story are many sub-plots devised to tempt the reader to reach further into the cupboard of family skeletons. If ever there were a filmic novel with great characters and loads of visual interest, this is it. The book reveals much about love and human nature as page after page of oversensitive female characters’ thoughts abound. Tensions build gradually, and the time slips back to 1948 and Chrissie and her beau.
Throughout the book there is a tendency to narration overload as Chrissie discovers her grandmother’s tragic love story. This is a book of elaborate and extreme emotional introspection. If this is what you like, then this is for you.