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1906: A Novel by James Dalessandro
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1906: A Novel (edition 2005)

by James Dalessandro

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149None82,310 (3.41)2
Member:Cariola
Title:1906: A Novel
Authors:James Dalessandro
Info:Chronicle Books (2005), Paperback, 368 pages
Collections:Your library, Historical Fiction
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Tags:Fiction, 20th century, American; given away

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1906 by James Dalessandro

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Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
I read this as part of my continued research on the Great San Francisco Earthquake. I've read a great deal of nonfiction, but I wanted a level of detail that can only be found in fiction. I found this book, published in 2005 not long before the centennial of the quake.

1906 struck me as extremely irritating and enlightening all at once.

To begin with the irritants: the perspectives of the story. It's a first person novel that uses omniscient third person to tell the tales of a broad cast of about a dozen. It head-hops from character to character, back and forth, within a single scene. This is considered a big no-no for writers, generally, and with reason--it can be extremely confusing and frustrating to track. At the end, the first person narrator, the gutsy journalist Annalissa Passarelli, justifies this by saying the narrative of "what really happened" is told in the style of her hero, Nellie Bly. That's all well and good, but there's probably a reason why modern readers read about reporter Nellie Bly rather than read her actual chronicles.

The novel is also morally heavy-handed. It actually reminded me of the 1930s Clark Gable movie San Francisco, which blatantly uses the message that San Francisco deserved to burn because it was an ungodly city like Sodom and Gomorrah and will be rebuilt as a godly modern wonder (yes, we can snicker now). There are very few nuanced characters in this book. I suppose it could be argued that since it's told by Annalissa, it's only right that the take is biased, but it just feels melodramatic and silly at times. Her love interest, Hunter, is about as paladin as you can get, complete with riding about on a motorcycle instead of a gallant white steed. The bad guys are very bad, though a lot of what they do is based on historical fact. Dalessandro just kind of compressed a full decade of wickedness into one book, complete with overwrought action during the earthquake that reminded me way too much of the silly escapades at the end of the movie Titanic.

Now, for the positives.

At the end, the author mentions that he spent six years researching the book. It shows. The attention to detail is astonishing, and he really does make San Francisco feel visceral and real, down to the perfume and vomit in the Barbary Coast. He also demonstrates a great intimacy with San Francisco, its streets, and its hills. I envy his knowledge, really. I found myself nodding along at several points as I recognized historical details he worked in that I've already encountered in other works. If anything, he crammed too much in, as it all added to the ridiculous, moral melodrama of the plot.

It's one of those books that I'm glad I read and I will keep it handy for research purposes, but overall I didn't like that much as an actual story. ( )
  ladycato | May 15, 2013 |
I chose this book because the earthquake in San Francisco has always interested me ever since I saw the movie, San Francisco staring Clark Gable. Because this is historical fiction, there are so many character names introduced that you need a filing cabinet to keep track. I tried to just follow the main characters in order to not become confused and so would fast forward whole chapters. The style of writing was much too detailed for my taste. Even though I was a little bored with details and confused with the plethora of people involved in the corruption of the city, I still wanted to find out what happened to the main characters, so I finished it. I enjoy historical fiction, but maybe not so historical. ( )
  gaillamontagne | Mar 30, 2013 |
Excellent historical fiction with an interesting twist -- a combination of a mystery/police procedural (political corruption in San Francisco) then overwhelmed by the April 23, 2006 epic scale earthquake hitting just when the good guys were making their arrests. An elaborate and challenging plot which closely follows the actual events surrounding the earthquake and fire. All in all, a great read.
1 vote DanielMaddison | Jun 27, 2010 |
Had to read it for class and waited til the day before to finish the 350 page novel. The book was good enough that I managed to do it all in one night. The characters are a little flat but that descriptions of the city, from shanghai-ing in Chinatown to coasting down Nob Hill, are both historically accurate and interesting. ( )
  MissRose | Dec 5, 2007 |
While I did not really enjoy the style of writing, I did like the story quite a bit. Historical fiction can always be a fun read, and this was just that. ( )
  Pool_Boy | Dec 3, 2007 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0811849414, Paperback)

Now available in paperback, James Dalessandro's "riveting account of corruption, greed, and murder in the City by the Bay" (Dallas Morning News) was a best-seller in hardcoverand production has begun on a major motion picture. Set during the great San Francisco earthquake and fire, this page-turning historical novel reveals recently uncovered facts that forever change our understanding of what really happened. Narrated by a feisty young reporter, Annalisa Passarelli, the novel paints a vivid picture of the Post-Victorian city, from the mansions of Nob Hill to the underbelly of the Barbary Coast to the arrival of tenor Enrico Caruso and the Metropolitan Opera. Central to the story is the ongoing battlefought even as the city burnsthat pits incompetent and unscrupulous politicians against a coalition of honest police officers, newspaper editors, citizens, and a lone federal prosecutor. James Dalessandro weaves unforgettable characters and actual events into a compelling epic.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:57:01 -0400)

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