Lindsay Faye comes to the blog today with a story that combines politics, life histories and racism with a dash of mystery all set in the Jazz Age on the west coast in
The Paragon Hotel
Going into this book, the prologue reads as an introduction and calls this ‘story’ a love letter, and early on the story did actually feel like it would meet that expectation, but somewhere along the way, just past the last 1/3 of the book, it started to overcomplicate itself and lose what connections that felt so relevant and important at first. But, the premise is wholly unique, with plenty of twists in that it is a young woman who, raised on the streets of New York City and involved in both legal and illegal industry is fleeing the city with her carpetbag, a few dollars, a vague idea of ‘westward ho’ and a bullet wound. Alice is heading for Oregon, believing that as it is so far removed from New York City, and perhaps believing her dead, not simply ‘disappeared’ she can regroup and build her life. With the effects of the bullet compromising her health, and a need to stay to herself and not ‘make a scene’, but having no ‘constraints’ on the color of her friends, she’s befriended a porter, Max, who reminds her of people and friends in New York. She’s in need of a friend, a helping hand, a place to live and medical attention, not necessarily in that order.
Max brings her to the Paragon Hotel, in the segregated times, it was the only all-black hotel in the city and was run by Dr. Pendleton, a capable and discrete doctor. A white woman in the midst of an all-black hotel in a city that was pro KKK and wholly intolerant, even going so far as to enact legislation to ‘normalize’ the racism – using the “America first” rallying cry of their KKK chapter to ‘normalize’ the irrational behavior. A rather pointed and disturbing correlation to present day rhetoric flies through this story – giving us some intriguing and interesting stories from the various characters, the quotes gleaned from popular press of the day, and Alice’s own rather ‘colorful’ background with a deceased Italian father and her struggling Welsh-born mother working the streets, there’s also an onus of family that follows her, adding layers to the secrets and lies that are all around her – and while uncovering those secrets and untwisting the knots in NYC forced her to leave, she’s tottering on yet another pile of knots in Portland, which could bring her to another ‘jumping off point’.
I wanted to love this story, but I just couldn’t get past the often ceaseless need to add yet another twist, lie or tangent into the story – some that tied back to New York, others that felt as if they did, yet were wholly west coast in nature- but it all became one more question, answer and challenge after another, and didn’t always feel as if they connected to who Alice is or was. Relying heavily on flashbacks and atmosphere – the writing is descriptive and illustrative, but I lost connections that I hoped to see carry through, solving some current and past questions for Alice. Interesting for the perspective of a woman, who was not quite ever accepted in any of the worlds she inhabited, as she worked her way through all of the stopgaps, legal and personal that are thrown in her way.
Title: The Paragon Hotel
Author: Lyndsay Faye
Genre: Historic Elements, Historical Mystery, Jazz Age, Mystery Elements
Published by: G.P. Putnam's Sons
Published on: 8 January, 2019
Source: Publisher Via Edelweiss
Audio Length: 13 Hours: 21 minutes
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The new and exciting historial thriller by Lyndsay Faye, author of Edgar-nominated Jane Steele and Gods of Gotham, which follows Alice “Nobody” from Prohibition-era Harlem to Portland’s the Paragon Hotel.
The year is 1921, and “Nobody” Alice James is on a cross-country train, carrying a bullet wound and fleeing for her life following an illicit drug and liquor deal gone horribly wrong. Desperate to get as far away as possible from New York City and those who want her dead, she has her sights set on Oregon: a distant frontier that seems the end of the line.
She befriends Max, a black Pullman porter who reminds her achingly of Harlem, who leads Alice to the Paragon Hotel upon arrival in Portland. Her unlikely sanctuary turns out to be the only all-black hotel in the city, and its lodgers seem unduly terrified of a white woman on the premises. But as she meets the churlish Dr. Pendleton, the stately Mavereen, and the unforgettable club chanteuse Blossom Fontaine, she begins to understand the reason for their dread. The Ku Klux Klan has arrived in Portland in fearful numbers–burning crosses, inciting violence, electing officials, and brutalizing blacks. And only Alice, along with her new “family” of Paragon residents, are willing to search for a missing mulatto child who has mysteriously vanished into the Oregon woods.
Why was “Nobody” Alice James forced to escape Harlem? Why do the Paragon’s denizens live in fear–and what other sins are they hiding? Where did the orphaned child who went missing from the hotel, Davy Lee, come from in the first place? And, perhaps most important, why does Blossom DuBois seem to be at the very center of this tangled web?
A copy of this title was provided via Publisher Via Edelweiss for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.