Reviewed by Colleen Turner
Gina Attaviano might be the only one of her family excited to be arriving in the Port of Boston in 1899. Born in Sicily, her father had worked hard to educate both her brothers and Gina and always told them their future happiness and success would come when they moved to America. Saving enough money for the adventure took time, however, and it isn’t until her father and her oldest brother die that Gina, her mother and her brother, Salvatore, are able to make the journey. Determined to make her father proud and live up to the expectations of freedom and happiness he wanted for her, Gina will not let anything stand in her way of finding her dreams and making them come true.
As soon as they arrive in Boston they are met by two young men, Harry Barrington and Ben Shaw, who assist new immigrants in finding work and shelter in apartments that Harry’s father owns. While the Attavianos do not ultimately stay in the Barrington apartments Gina is instantly dawn to Harry and is convinced, despite their differences in class, religion and background that they are meant to be together. From that day forward, the Barringtons and the Attavianos are forever linked, in ways unexpected and often unwanted by members of both families. But in a country at the cusp of societal and political changes, can two people searching for their freedom from two different worlds ever find a place together in either?
Gina Attaviano is a delightful character! She is witty, earnest, kind and sassy. It is seeing her genuine mix of intelligence and naiveté at what this new world can offer that makes her so enjoyable to read about. The various other characters all have their own purposes surrounding the evolution of Gina and Harry’s relationship but it was their central journey that I enjoyed most. I also found the fact that all of the characters seemed to love someone who loves someone else (for example, Harry’s sister Esther loves Ben, Ben loves Gina, Gina loves Harry, etc.) a tender way to look at each character in turn and made it easier to feel for each of them, even those that were less than sympathetic (such as Esther). The dialogue is clever and funny and it was the various human interactions that drove the book and made it enjoyable for me.
What made Children of Liberty feel daunting at times, however, were the distracting subplots, such as Ben’s obsession with getting the Panama Canal built and importing bananas to America. The discussion of the various societal and political changes and affiliations (capitalism, anarchism, etc) was also overdone to me and, since I do not have a big interest in these sorts of topics, hard to distinguish and follow. It felt repetitive and unnecessary and had me struggling through to get back to the personal interactions of the characters. There were also no author’s notes explaining what aspects of the story are true to history and which are embellishments, something that I rely on when reading historical fiction. This could be because I read an Uncorrected Proof of the book but I hope the final copy will include this for the reader.
Readers who enjoy historical fiction set in turn of the century America and those dealing with class struggles and finding love beyond those boundaries would most likely enjoy Children of Liberty. Those who also know and understand the difference between the various political affiliations would enjoy it even more. Those who don’t enjoy this sort of thing might want to keep it in mind, however, so they are not bogged down in the reading.
Colleen lives in Tampa, Florida with her husband, son, their dog Oliver and their fish Finn. When not working or taking care of her family she has her nose stuck in a book (and, let’s face it, often when she is working or taking care of her family as well). Nothing excites her more than discovering a new author to obsess over or a hidden jewel of a book to worship.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by William Morrow Paperbacks. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.