The Bohemians: A Novel

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Many of us are familiar with Dorothea Lange’s haunting photographs of migrant workers and other down-and-out folks during the Depression. But for several years before she took her camera on the road, she was a successful portrait photographer in San Francisco. The Bohemians lovingly recreates the city ten years after the 1906 quake when “bohemians” flourished, even amidst the war, the pandemic, and an atmosphere of anti-Chinese propaganda. Darznik focuses on the friendship between Dorothea and her “assistant,” whose true identity has been lost to history, choosing to render her as a half-Chinese dressmaker, whose beauty and generosity charm Dorothea.

Replete with historical figures and with actual events that echo into the present day, the novel is strongest when it focuses on the women’s connection as they build a portrait studio and explore the city together, “because that’s the sort of thing San Francisco does: hands you a costume and sets you free.”

I was left uncertain with exactly how Dorothea and Caroline were “bohemians” and what that meant to them artistically. Yes, they were unconventional in their dress; Caroline, being half-Chinese, could never comfortably fit in society. But there was little indication that they embraced the bohemian values of the early twentieth century. Nonetheless, this novel will be thoroughly enjoyed by readers who love historical fiction and by the many people who regard San Francisco as their mecca, their calling, their dream city.

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Star Count 4/5
Format Hard
Page Count 334 pages
Publisher Ballantine
Publish Date 2021-Apr-05
ISBN 9781616957018 Buy this Book
Issue April 2021
Category Popular Fiction


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