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Carpe Librum

Bookish conversation with author Samantha Wilcoxson.


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Historical Novel Society

Review: The Immigrants by Howard Fast

The Immigrants - Howard Fast

I had a basic 'meh' response to this book. Hoping for a John Jakes style epic, I was disappointed in the one-dimensional characters, skimming over of important historical events, and general blandness of this novel.

My favorite characters in this book were Joseph and Anna Lavette, who are the original immigrants that the story opens up with. However, they are not the central characters of the book. It is their son Daniel who the bulk of the novel centers upon. He is an uneducated, rough, outspoken giant of a man who failed to gain my sympathy at any point in his life. Most of the supporting characters were as unlikeable, except for his wife, Jean. I'm pretty sure that Satan was the model for her character.

With nobody to care about, this novel needed some drama and action to make it interesting. Despite the fact that it covers the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake, World War I, the influenza epidemic, and the Stock Market Crash, this book maintains its inanity. The main characters float through these tragic times relatively unscathed, making this not only uninteresting but unbelievable. Even those who lose their money in the crash seem philosophical about the loss and are certain that they will be much happier without those troublesome millions.

Fast's attempt at drama seems to be extramarital affairs. Everybody has at least one, even the guy who is supposed to be impotent. Apparently everyone was a slut in the early 20th century. Only one of these affairs seemed at all like a romance. The rest of them just felt like the author was desperately trying to convince readers to be interested or shocked. I wasn't.

I have the rest of this trilogy and may continue it at some point to see if later generations of this family are more compelling, but for now there are too many books and too little time to continue with ones like this.