Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: Downloaded audiobook from my local library
“Every disaster has a backstory, none more thrilling than this one. Set during the great San Francisco earthquake and fire, this page-turning tale of political corruption, vendettas, romance, rescue – and murder – is based on recently uncovered facts that forever change our understanding of what really happened. Told by a feisty young reporter, Annalisa Passarelli, the novel paints a vivid picture of the Victorian-era city, from the mansions of Nob Hill to the underbelly of the Barbary Coast to the arrival of tenor Enrico Caruso and the Metropolitan Opera. Central to the story is the ongoing battle – fought even as the city burns – that pits incompetent and unscrupulous politicians against a coalition of honest police officers, newspaper editors, citizens and a lone federal prosecutor.”This novel has a little bit of everything – early police procedural, action sequences, drama, shoot outs, natural disasters, love story – in essence, the whole nine yards. There is a little something for everyone here. The first half of the novel is significantly character driven. We come to know and love the men of the Brotherhood – some of San Francisco’s finest cops who are working to help take down the graft and corruption visible everywhere you turn. There is a core group of individuals who are putting all of the pieces into place for a final takedown of the members of the political machine. The second half of the novel is very much about the city of San Francisco and what happens to it and its people during the earthquake and subsequent fires. The whole novel covers a roughly 7 day period – 3 days leading up to the earthquake and the 3 days after it. The best way to compare the layout of the novel is to compare it to the movie Titanic. Here you have a disaster film – but the first portion is very character driven (so that you feel something for the characters when the worst comes), then you have the height of the disaster, and the subsequent wrap up and resolution of the disaster. It is very similar.
The characters were written in such a way that you were unable to pinpoint who was fictional and who was likely based on a real character or amalgamation of characters. This goes to show that the author had a great sense of his characters and how to set them into the world that they would inhabit. The city itself is also formed into a character. The author presents a fantastic visual layout of the city – complete with all of the areas of local character – Nob Hill, the Barbary Coast, China Town etc.
I am very confident that this book would appeal to a wide audience – the disaster junkie, the romance reader, the historical fan, San Franciscans, those who enjoy a little murder mystery/police procedural – men and women alike.
And did I mention…this is being made into a film? It was actually first written as a screenplay before he wrote the novel – can’t wait to see it!
The narrator did a fantastic job with this novel. She had a character for everyone – and there were a wide variety of types of characters presented – Italians, Chinese, Mid-Westerners etc. She sang a little bit in Latin when covering aspects of the Opera – particularly Carmen and La Boehme. It took a little while for me to get used to her voice and I can’t exactly pinpoint why. There were not any sound effects in this novel but I wish there were some. As I was seeing this play out in my head as a movie, a little dramatic music at the height of the disaster wouldn’t have hurt or some crackling fire flames.
You can visit Dalessandro’s website for additional information about the book and prospective film. If you would like to preview the story before reading it, why not try out this excerpt of the book?
You can also watch a short video about this book too.
Reviews of this book by other bloggers: