Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Victoria Crossing

Title:  Victoria Crossing
Author:  Michael Wallace
Publication Information:  Lake Union Publishing. 2016. 318 pages.
ISBN:  1503934136 / 978-1503934139

Book Source:  I received this book as a publisher's galley through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "The immigrant barque Daisy may came tacking around the end of Long Island."

Favorite Quote:  "You either drive the wheel or it drives you. That's the way New York works. Why should it be otherwise?"

Victoria Crossing begins in 1851 as Victoria MacPherson and Maeve O'Reilly complete their ocean crossing from Ireland and reach New York. One is Protestant; the other Catholic. The come from opposite sides of many a conflict in Ireland. Both are escaping the Irish potato famine, and both  dream of a better life in America.  Circumstances and a perilous journey make them friends.

Unfortunately, things don't go quite as planned upon their arrival. They expect Maeve's brother to meet them at the dock; he is not there. Making their way into the city, they are robbed of all their money. Such is their inauspicious beginning in America.

Yet, they plunge into life in New York. Victoria is determined to make her way, and to help Maeve succeed along with her. Other characters enter the picture. Patrick O'Reilly is the brother Maeve's expected to find waiting on the dock. Thomas Ashton and Joel Silver are men whose lives intersect with Victoria's.

For a city teeming with people, this book focuses in narrowly on these main characters. Through descriptions, the book tells some of their backstories including those in Ireland. This helps explain some of their actions and motivations.

The plot is a classic one. A young woman seeks to make her way independently and despite hardships. She finds friends and enemies along the way. She achieves success. She suffers setbacks. She starts again.

Victoria Crossing, from its description, setting, characters, and plot promises the epic immigrant story of two young women. It promises a story of their struggles and their successes in the pursuit of their American dream. It delivers, up to a point.

The characters in the book do not really develop much depth. The good are very very good, and the bad seem to get worse by the minute. The book also does not build the rich, vibrant setting of New York City. It references neighborhoods without truly creating an image of the place. The main characters are all part of the New York garment industry; the book provides a glimmer into the structure and inequity of the industry but does not fully develop that foundation either. I would enjoy more of the history being developed around the story. A greater historical context would provide greater substance to the plot.

The scale of the plot itself is also much smaller than I expect. The reason why becomes clear by the end. The ending seems to clearly indicate that a sequel may be coming. Thus, this book becomes not the epic story of a lifetime, but rather one component of it.  As such, the story seems to drag even though the events described are action oriented. The ending not only indicates a sequel but also jumps about ten years forward in the timeline, which seems abrupt after an almost three hundred page story that focuses on a much shorter time period.

The concept and plot of the book hold promise that is not completely reached. The book is a quick entertaining read but leaves a lot of depth unexplored. Perhaps the sequel (if indeed there is one) will plunger deeper?

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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