Written by Nancy Bilyeau
Review by Ann Northfield

Heiress Peggy Batternberg is forced by her rich and powerful family to spend the summer on Coney Island. This may not sound like a tragedy to us, but to the young woman struggling to find her own identity and live her own life, free from the chokehold of her name and fortune, it is unwelcome news indeed.

The status of women in 1911 is a key aspect of the novel as Peggy is brought into line with all manner of horrific but ultimately possible threats. The intention is to seal the deal and get Lydia, Peggy’s sister, safely married off to the rich and debonair Henry Taul. Peggy makes the most of some unexpected freedom from supervision to experience the delights of the eponymous Dreamland and meet the impoverished but talented artist Stefan Chalakoski. Love blossoms, but police involvement, mysterious murders of young women and the inevitable disapproval of the family mean the complications are many.

The plot skips along entertainingly and themes of female empowerment, police corruption and xenophobia are thought-provoking. Wealth may not bring happiness, but it certainly encourages people to listen to your viewpoint. Bilyeau is also the author of the excellent Joanna Stafford novels, which are set in the Tudor era.