Publication: William Morrow, hardcover, March 2014
Genre: Historical Fiction Setting: 20th century
Plot: Bellagrand is a sequel to Sons of Liberty (which is likely a better starting point for new readers than this book) and written as a backstory to Simons’ bestselling trilogy, which begins with The Bronze Horseman. In Sons of Liberty, blueblood and Harvard educated Harry Barrington met a beautiful Italian immigrant, Gina Attaviano. They eloped prior to Bellagrand and, disowned by his wealthy Brahmin family and unable to hold a job, Harry continues and escalates his involvement in radical politics while Gina takes on the most menial jobs to support him and her infirm mother. Gina’s worry about Harry’s incendiary ideas and companions is made worse by her longing for a child. Ultimately, she and Harry share a bond that survives through passion, betrayal and heartbreak but it isn't a very fun experience for the reader!
Audience: Fans of historical fiction authors such as Adriana Trigiani, Cynthia Harrod-Eagles, Jennifer Niven, and Judith Lennox.
What I liked: My favorite parts were those set in Lawrence (I was there just a few weeks ago), where Harry and Gina live as newlyweds with her mother, and in Boston where her brother Salvo works. I enjoyed the descriptions of the tight knit Italian communities in Boston’s North End and the labor disputes in the Lawrence mills (having represented one of the few modern day leftovers, Polartec, this was especially poignant). The author played with Boston readers a bit when she has Gina’s brother get a job in the molasses factory in the North End (“No, no, no,” I muttered to myself). There are intriguing scenes set in Concord, MA, one of my favorite places, where Gina volunteers with Nathaniel Hawthorne’s daughter, Rose.
I am partial to historical fiction with Russian settings or characters, such as my all time favorites, Masha and The Youngest Lady in Waiting by Mara Kay. If you also enjoy this setting, here is a list of historical fiction set in Russia.
What I disliked: Harry was a very unsympathetic character, and Gina enables his behavior by staying with him, which made their story somewhat dark and depressing. However, most contemporary characters would have expected nothing less of her because marriage was supposed to be forever. Admittedly, because Gina and Harry were not married in the Catholic church, she was no longer a practicing Catholic and not bound by Catholic doctrine that forbade divorce. However, the author makes clear that Gina remains influenced by her religious upbringing, which modern readers may not understand. One thing that surprised me was her crossing herself whenever anyone uttered the words, “Our father,” as I had never heard of that particular Catholic tradition.
About the Author: Paullina Simons is the author of the acclaimed novels Tully, Red Leaves, Eleven Hours, and The Bronze Horseman. Born and raised in St. Petersburg, Russia, she graduated from the University of Kansas (Rock Chalk, Jayhawk), and has lived in Rome, London, and Dallas. Find out more about Paullina at her website, follow her on Twitter and connect with her on Facebook.
Source: I received this book from TLC Book Tours and urge you to stop by the tour to learn how this book fits into the story of Alexander Belov - not the Soviet basketball player!
Bellagrand Tour Stops
Tuesday, March 25th: Ageless Pages Reviews
Wednesday, March 26th: Always With a Book
Thursday, March 27th: Dwell in Possibility
Monday, March 31st: Becca Rowan
Wednesday, April 2nd: Patricia’s Wisdom
Thursday, April 3rd: Spiced Latte Reads
Monday, April 7th: The Most Happy Reader
Tuesday, April 8th: Italian Brat’s Obsessions
Wednesday, April 9th: Historical Tapestry
Thursday, April 10th: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom
Monday, April 14th: Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers