Genre: Historical Fiction
Review in a word: Okay.
Opening line: “My father’s wife died.”
When Iris’s mother dies, Eva and her mother come to live with Iris and her father. The two half-sisters become comrades and run away together to Hollywood so that Iris can pursue a career in acting. Iris is pretty successful—until she is caught having a rendezvous with another woman. Her acting career is destroyed so, along with their father and their gay hairdresser, they roadtrip across the country to New York. Iris gets a job as a governess/nanny to a wealthy Italian family, and their father becomes the butler. Eva finds work telling fortunes. The first night on the job, Iris meets Reenie, the family’s cook, and falls desperately in love. Reenie and her husband Gus befriend Iris and Eva. Iris tries repeatedly to convince Reenie to be with her but Reenie’s hopes for children keep her determined to see it through with Gus.
World War II starts, giving Iris the perfect opportunity to get what she wants. She hints to a bank that Gus might be a German spy. After Gus is taken away, Reenie joins Eva’s family and Iris steals a boy from an orphanage to fulfill Reenie’s desire for children. The rest of the story is Eva’s communication with Gus while he is in custody and then “deported” back to Germany, and her taking care of the little boy, Danny, through her sister’s wild life.
This was a quick read and an interesting story, but it didn’t do much for me. I was frustrated with Iris’s irresponsible decisions and Eva’s mousy acquiescence. Although Eva loved Iris and was bitter about having to always clean up after her, she did so anyway. Eva seemed to have few hopes or ambitions for a better life. She continued to just settle throughout the book.
I think I should have known when Colum McCann gave the book a positive endorsement that I wouldn’t have liked it, since I feel much the same about this book as I did about his book, Transatlantic.
Recommend? Not so much.
Instead, I think you should read:The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress by Ariel Lawhon. If you want glitz and glamor, this is much more riveting!