Thursday, March 15, 2012

Sonoma Rose by Jennifer Chiaverini

Title: Sonoma Rose
Author: Jennifer Chiaverini

Genre: Fiction (Historical / 1920s / California / Abusive Marriage / Prohibition / Farming / Childhood Loves / Mysterious Illnesses)
Publisher/Publication Date: Dutton Adult (2/21/2012)
Source: TLC Book Tours

Rating: Unfinished.
Did I finish?: Alas, I didn't!
One-sentence summary: During the Prohibition, the wife of a California rye farmer-turned-bootlegger escapes her abusive marriage with her four surviving children in hopes of finding a new life for all of them.

Do I like the cover?: Eh, I'm not wild about it. The painting is very pretty, but I don't think it reflects either lead character. Still, it has a soft, vintage-y feel that's appealing.

I'm reminded of...: Camille Noe Pagán

First line: Clad in the faded apron she had sewn from a cotton feed sack, Rosa sat at the foot of the kitchen table sipping a cup of coffee and planning her day while her husband bolted down his bacon and eggs.

Why did I get this book?: I love books set during the Prohibition and was excited about the West Coast focus.

Review: Sadly, this was a DNF for me. I tried about three times to get in to the story, employing my usual tactic of reading 100 pages in before giving up. In this case, I just didn't resonate with the characters or writing style, despite the book's interesting setting and potentially fun premise.

The book doesn't open with a date, so I had to guess when this is set -- through Rosa's discovery of a tommy gun and liquor casks it's clear the setting is sometime during the Prohibition -- but whether that's 1919 or 1930, I don't know. The heroine, Rosa, has had eight children, four of whom have died of a mysterious illness. Of her four remaining children, two are stricken with the same illness, while two -- born of another father -- are healthy and fine. (I learned this tidbit about the different fathers from the book blurb; it wasn't made very clear to me in the 100 pages I did read.) Rosa is in an abusive marriage to a man who, from what I read, picked on her since she was a child. Despite being in love with another much kinder man, Rosa marries this jerk, and the book opens with him slapping her around.

I don't want to victim blame as the cycle of domestic violence is complex, complicated, and difficult to break out of, but from the first page, I just couldn't stand Rosa. I'm not sure if she was featured in previous Elm Creek Quilts novels and thus the reader already cared for her, but when the story opens with her four dead children, two more dying, and a guy who beats her, I just wanted to toss the book to the wall. What motivates her to leave this time seems flimsy -- certainly no more shocking than the previous times her husband has attacked her -- and so I couldn't become invested in her flight or her fear.

The writing is fine and the setting very unique. From other reviews I've seen, I understand the book goes a bit in to the plight of the California wineries during Prohibition, and explores the way the Catholic Church perpetuated and excused domestic violence. The feel of this novel is cozy drama, if such a thing is possible.

Other reviewers on the tour enjoyed this book, so do check out other opinions to see if this is a book for you.

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GIVEAWAY!

I'm thrilled to offer a copy of Sonoma Rose to one lucky reader! To enter, fill out this brief form. Open to US/CA readers, ends 3/30.


16 comments:

  1. Sorry to hear you didn’t like this one. I can’t say I’m a fan of the cover and that would have kept me from picking it up. Although, in this case it sounds like that would be a good thing. There is so much promise in a story set in California during Prohibition, since most stories during that time are based on the East Coast, so it’s sad to see the author not using that her advantage.

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    1. Yes -- I loved the West Coast focus for this story -- California in the early 20th century is a fascinating place -- but I just couldn't get in to the story. Other bloggers really dug it and found the focus on the CA vinters to be interesting so I'm sad this one didn't work for me. :/

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  2. DNF? Did Not Fly?

    I'm sure the ending will be very rosy!

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    1. Ha! In my head, I even pronounce it phonetically, like I'm sneezing. There's a happy ending, apparently, but from reviews I scanned, folks were split on whether it was satisfying or not. This was just a bad call on my part -- I should have researched her writing style.

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  3. How funny - I just read a very positive review of this one! ...showing of course, there is a book for every reader, and vice versa!

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    1. Exactly! I was really thinking I'd love it since I'd seen such good reviews, but for whatever reason, I just really couldn't click with this one. :/ I do think it's me, though, and not the book! :)

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  4. Sorry this didn't resonate with you.

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  5. Eek! I don't think this one would sit well with me, either. I have a 100-page rule, too, though sometimes I cheat and make it 50 pages. If characters aren't clicking, they just aren't clicking.

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  6. I'm not crazy about that cover.

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  7. Honestly, prohibition is my favorite period, so a books gotta be really good to catch me. Thanks for the great review, I'll probably end up passing on this one.

    -Kate the Book Buff
    Recent Post: NEWS FLASH! Nicholas Sparks' Safe Haven Movie is in the Works, A-Lister in Talks to Star

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  8. oops meant to say prohibition is *NOT* my favorite period

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  9. I'm sorry this one wasn't your cup of tea Audra, but thanks for sharing your thoughts on it for the tour.

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  10. "explores the way the Catholic Church perpetuated and excused domestic violence." Hmm, I don't feel that was a focus of the book at all.

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    1. I didn't say it was the focus, but that it was a part of the plot -- and I could be wrong, as I didn't finish this book. That's the sense I gleaned from reviews I read.

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  11. And I should add that I did read the whole book. :)

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    1. Then you'd definitely know better than me!

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