I really enjoy reading books by Donoghue but this is the one I enjoyed the least.
Don’t get me wrong, it IS a good book but I’m not particularly fond of the “whodunnit” format, particularly in a historical drama. The constant moving between time frames (the murder is right at the beginning of the book, it’s not a spoiler!) bothered me somewhat. When reading Donoghue I’m used to really getting to know the character and the period before such a dramatic event. Judging by the reviews online most people were not bothered by this at all!
This book, with its many musical references, might have been more enjoyable as an audiobook – they tend to sing such things when possible, Reading the afterword helped me realize the significance of the references and their relevance to the period and to the plot. I admit that I needed the explanations.
In fact, the afterword helped me appreciate the book more, as the author explains which historical facts were available to her about the two main characters’ lives (and deaths) and how she used them to create the story. I was fascinated by that part!
The book takes place in 1876 in San Francisco – a lot it takes place in Chinatown. The author’s depictions of the shameful way the Chinese immigrants were treated tied in with the information I learned from two other books I’ve recently read, “Interior Chinatown” by Charles Yu and “Disappearing Moon Cafe” by Sky Lee (this is set in Vancouver but covers a lot of the same ground as the other two).
There are still many books by Donaghue I haven’t read – I’m looking forward to reading them!