Wednesday, December 2, 2015

REVIEW: Wherever There Is Light by Peter Golden

Wherever There Is Light
by Peter Golden

Publisher: Atria Books
Page Count: 368
Release Date: November 3, 2015
Format: Trade Paperback

How got: ARC copy from publisher

First attention getter: forbidden love aspect


From GoodReads:

From the author of Comeback Love­, a sweeping, panoramic tale of twentieth-century America, chronicling the decades-long love affair between a Jewish immigrant and the granddaughter of a slave.

Julian Rose is only fifteen when he leaves his family and Germany for a new life in 1920s America. Lonely at first, he eventually finds his way—first by joining up with Longy Zwillman and becoming one of the preeminent bootleggers on the East Coast, and later by amassing a fortune in real estate.

Kendall Wakefield is a free-spirited college senior who longs to become a painter. Her mother, the daughter of a slave and founder of an African-American college in South Florida, is determined to find a suitable match for her only daughter.

One evening in 1938, Mrs. Wakefield hosts a dinner that reunites Julian with his parents—who have been rescued from Hitler’s Germany by the college—and brings him together with Kendall for the first time. From that encounter begins a thirty-year affair that will take the lovers from the beaches of Miami to the jazz clubs of Greenwich Village to postwar life in Paris, where they will mingle with Sartre, Picasso, and a host of other artists and intellectuals. Through his years serving in American intelligence and as an interrogator at the Nuremberg trials, what Julian wants most is to marry and find the joy that eluded his parents. Kendall craves her freedom, and after trading her oil paints for a Leica camera, becomes a celebrated photographer, among the first American journalists to photograph the survivors of a liberated concentration camp. Yet despite distance, their competing desires, and the rapidly changing world, their longing for each other remains a constant in the ceaseless sweep of time.

Captivating and infused with historical detail, this is the epic tale of three generations, two different but intertwined families, and one unforgettable love story.

My Thoughts:

Star Rating - 4

Well, this book was definitely a meaty, thought-provoking read. Dealing with heavy subjects like race, prejudice, and war, there were several times where I had to just stop and digest the material, reflecting on its relevance to today’s world as well as on the times it portrays.

I liked that the author wasn’t afraid to delve into these heavier topics. Interracial relationships and the history that go along with them are as relevant today as they were then. The judgment that society piles on such unions and their progeny is heart-breaking; every time that Julian and Kendall faced down those bigots and gave them one-four, I cheered. The author delves into murder, lynching, racial pressure from both sides of the color spectrum to not mix, and betrayal while telling this gripping story.

I fell in love with Julian almost immediately. He’s tough, gritty, determined, intelligent, and protective as hell. He doesn’t give a fig what society makes of him, his views, or his life; he’ll live as he dang well pleases and woe betide anybody who stands in his way or threatens his own. I admire his viewpoint on life and its issues; it’s one I hope I can adopt some day.

Kendall I’m a bit more mixed on. I do like her grit and her pluck in pursuing her dreams. She wasn’t going to let familial pressure steer her onto a predetermined road; she was going to pursue her dreams of travel and art no matter what it took.

Her attitude towards how society viewed her relationship with Julian and her unwilling-ness to defend it and him, though, got on my nerves. Julian didn’t hesitate to throw pie in someone’s face after a derogatory slur directed her way; however, when the opposite happened, she didn’t say a word, just looked in the other direction and pretend that nothing happened. She also let the pressure that society put on race and her relationship keep her from building a life with Julian and so hurting both herself and him in the process. A part of me felt like she didn’t deserve Julian because she wasn’t willing to meet him halfway in the fight against society’s expectations and prejudice.

Despite some reservations on how Kendall was sometimes portrayed, overall I really enjoyed this book. It tells a great story that doesn’t hesitate to explore material that other authors might shy from. The main leads were strong enough to carry the story and thematic material, giving these a human face and making everything very personal. Highly recommended to lovers of historical fiction!

Note: Book received for free from publisher via GoodReads FirstReads program in exchange for honest review.

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