Monday, 11 September 2017

Elizabeth Street

Author: Laurie Fabiano
Genre: Historical Fiction
Type: e-book
Source: Own copy
Publisher: AmazonEncore
First Published: 2006
First Line: "We lived at 202 Elizabeth Street."

Book Description from GoodReadsBased on true events, Elizabeth Street is a multigenerational saga that opens in an Italian village in the 1900's, and crosses the ocean to New York's Lower East Side. At the heart of the novel is Giovanna, whose family is targeted by the notorious Black Hand--the precursor to the Mafia. 

Elizabeth Street brings to light a period in history when Italian immigrant neighborhoods lived in fear of Black Hand extortion and violence--a reality that defies the romanticized depiction of the Mafia. 

Here, the author reveals the merciless terror of the Black Hand-and the impact their crimes had on her family. Giovanna is based on Fabiano's great-grandmother, and the book's heroes and villains - such as Lieutenant Petrosino, the crusading cop and "Lupo the Wolf," a cold-blooded criminal - are drawn from real life in this thrilling tale. While set in a dynamic historical context, Elizabeth Street is, above all, the dramatic story of the heroine, Giovanna, and how she triumphed over tragedy.

My Rating: 2.5 stars

My Review: This is an e-book that I've had on my Kindle for over two years and finally cracked it open while I was on vacation in Croatia last month.   

The book is a familial saga set in the heart of an Italian family in early 1900's New York City, loosely based on the author's own family. At the time, NYC was experiencing an influx of immigrants and the prejudice against Italian immigrants was blatant as was the power and terror that the Black Hand held over its countrymen. These tidbits of history are woven into the plot throughout the book but, at times, it felt like the plot came second to her opportunity to add in a unique historical setting, for example, an impromptu trip to Coney Island.

Fabiano uses multiple timelines to tell her story but it often came off as awkward and distracting as the plot jumped back and forth. I also didn't enjoy being told about a major plot point early in the book which made for a lackluster second half of the book since I knew how things would pan out. 

The subject and era was interesting but for a book with such high ratings I found the writing to be clunky and mediocre at best with the letters that Giovanna received from the Black Hand coming off as silly and juvenile (and hard to read on my Kindle).  For a story that is loosely based on her own family, Fabiano's storytelling felt detached and many of her characters' actions felt improbable. Add in that there was too much 'telling, not enough showing' in regards to the plot and writing style and you can see why this book didn't live up to my expectations.

There was potential for a great, sweeping saga of a read but I don't think that Fabiano's writing was up to the task. Overall, a light read set in an interesting era but there are other books with similar plots that do a better job of showcasing the subject and early 20th century New York immigrant experience.

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