Thursday, March 15, 2018

Dangerous Crossing

Title:  Dangerous Crossing
Author:  Rachel Rhys
Publication Information:  Atria Books. 2018. 368 pages.
ISBN:  1501162721 / 978-1501162725

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

Opening Sentence:  "Sandwiched between two policemen, the woman descends the gangplank of the ship."

Favorite Quote:  "I only wanted to tell you that you will survive this, even though you might think that you cannot. You just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other, one step at a time."

On the eve of World War II, a young woman leaves her home and her family to travel half way across the world to begin a new life in Australia. Lily Shepard leaves behind the secrets of her past and looks to begin again. This sounds like a story of adventure, courage, and history coming to life.

Unfortunately, the book becomes the story of the ocean voyage itself - a view on to a fish bowl, if you will. It is a snapshot of a diverse group that come together in close quarters for a finite period of time. The only commonality that draws these individuals together is the fact that they are on this journey together. Max and his wife Eliza. Edward and his sister Helena. A Jewish refugee named Maria. A fascist named George. And, of course, Lily.

They represent different economic, social, religious, and cultural backgrounds. This is the nod to the history underlying the book. The ship in the book is the SS Orontes, an actual ocean liner that ran the England to Australia route during the 1930s until it was commandeered as a troops ship in 1940.

However, the book is not really about the history. It is about the stories of these individuals - the pasts they leave behind and the secrets they hide. Unfortunately, this devolves into a story of who is chasing who, who likes someone, who does not. In other words, this is a story of relationships, the socially acceptable ones and the ones considered taboo at the time. The stereotypes and social norms of the time become the motivating point for the characters.

The book description puts forth the mystery of two deaths during this voyage. However, the mystery is not much of one since the events do not occur until well into the book. The majority of this book is about the relationships and the characters.

As such, most of the book feels slow and often repetitious. Sea sickness. On again, off again flirtations. An occasional nod to the political background of the time. The "cultural" aspect of a new port thrown in for good measure. The story bounces along until the big secret finally emerges. At the end, I am left questioning. I read over 350 pages for that?

Plot aside, a book can create a great reading experience through a compelling character. Again, the book description sets up Lily Shepard as a young woman independent enough and courageous enough to take on this journey away from everything she has ever known. There are hints at a sadness in Lily's past that compels her to take this journey. That, however, is not really developed in the book.

Unfortunately, the character envisioned by the description does not come to life within the story itself. Lily seems more buffeted around by the events and the characters around her. Her story on board this ship unfortunately turns into one about a man rather than one about an independent woman standing on her own. The other characters actually have the more interesting stories, but the book's focus is Lily. Sadly, both the plot and the main character make this not the book for me.

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

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