Thursday, May 12, 2016

The Girl From The Paradise Ballroom: A Book Review

There's nothing to see here, move along
I usually don't look at the author bio when I'm reading a book. Where that person comes from, or what's been done in the past, is not important, as long as I am captivated by the writing or the plot.

Soon after cracking open THE GIRL FROM THE PARADISE BALLROOM, however, I had to find out what compelled someone at Broadway Books (a division of Crown, one of the Random Penguins) to buy the manuscript.

Ah, yes. There it is. Alison Love has had short stories published. Therefore, she must be a writer who can capture a reader's interest.

A novel is not a short story. And in THE GIRL FROM THE PARADISE BALLROOM, it's evident. The chapters read like short stories, disconnected to each other, and maybe things will fall into place later in the novel. I've given up reading after twelve chapters. I have found the book too boring to continue.

The main characters of Antonio and Olivia brush up against each other early, but then their lives run off on different trajectories as the novel focuses on their experiences quite apart from each other. Those experiences are not all that exciting, given the stereotypical nature of Antonio's Italian immigrant family with its hackneyed interpersonal conflicts. As for Olivia, she meets and marries a wealty gentleman and if you can believe that a dance hall hostess recovering from an abortion could end up well placed, you're better at suspending disbelief than me.

The book opens with a prologue that's designed to pique interest, but the pages that follow do not maintain whatever curiosity is aroused. A story about Italian immigrants in London in the tumultuous years just before the first shots of World War II were fired should have some element of tension, but the only tension in the first 94 pages has nothing to do with that theme but falls back on ordinary family conflict. Even the presence of a pro-Mussolini social club agitating for fascism doesn't provide the power needed to drive the narrative forward. Too often the tension is teased but then the author pulls back to provide another glimpse into the life of Antonio or Olivia and the mood is lost.

The premise of the novel does not meet the execution, making for a disappointing experience. I tried to push on but my eyes kept closing, lulled to sleep by a plodding pace with no action.

Thanks to Blogging For Books for the copy, which I will donate to the library's used book fundraiser. Someone will enjoy it, I'm sure, but this one is not for me.

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