Farewell My Life
Angelina Miller, single mother of Violet and Grace, is most easily described as a loose woman. In the 1920s, it’s perhaps the kindest description one can have for her. She has affairs with multiple men, but when she comes across handsome Nicholas Russell, his attention quickly turns from her to her younger daughter, Grace. It seems like something out of a fairy tale; Nicholas is immediately captivated by the young woman, and the first thing they do together is to play a duet together: a Brahms sonata, with Grace on the violin and Russell on the piano. They perform beautifully with one another, and if this were a fairy tale, a whirlwind romance would begin then and there.
But if this were a fairy tale, the romance would not have begun with Russell flirting with Angelina, and no one would see any red flags. As it is, Angelina sees many. If it weren’t enough that Russell’s attentions to her daughter seem less romantic than obsessive, he speaks Italian with the intonations of a native, despite insisting he’s completely American. Russell’s pursuit of Grace and her own reactions are indeed a whirlwind, but whether they are truly a romance is left to the reader to decide.
Farewell My Life is a period drama in the form of a book, but the early 1920s form so much more than just a set piece to watch the lives of characters unfold. Every person in the book is masterfully shaped by the era, showing both prejudices, inner strength, and a timeless drive to claim what they want. By not shying away from either, the author has made a masterpiece, one readers can easily lose themselves in. As the book sweeps on, Grace is brought from Georgetown to post-war Berlin, where she pursues her own passions to become a violinist, before being thrown into the middle of family strife she had no notion existed even the day before she became the center of it. It is an intimate epic, an image of the minutiae of lives spelled out against the vastness of family history.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and I think any fan of historical fiction will too. The stakes feel just as high as in any war novel, because they are high for the characters. This makes them high for the reader as well, and any reader will no doubt be riveted from beginning to end.
After editing at City Book Review for a few years, I took up the duties of editorial assistant, which include assigning books for review, posting reviews to our various sites, and nagging reviewers for things. In my non-nagging time, I’m a gamer, artist, writer, and notorious black thumb/bane of plants. My answer to every book-related question: read Octavia Butler.
|Author||Cynthia Sally Haggard|
|Page Count||585 pages|
|Publisher||Spun Stories Press|
|Amazon||Buy this Book|