Love and Other Consolation Prizes by Jamie Ford
|Love and Other Consolation Prizes by Jamie Ford|
|Category: Historical Fiction|
|Reviewer: Louise Jones|
|Summary: An elderly man reminisces about his unconventional childhood, which included being raffled off as a prize at the World's Fair.|
|Buy? yes||Borrow? yes|
|Pages: 352||Date: September 2017|
|Publisher: Allison and Busby|
|External links: Author's website|
At the World's Fair in 1962, it seems that all eyes are focused on the future. The Space Needle dominates the landscape, filling people with anticipation about things to come. One visitor, however, has his mind firmly focused on the past. Ernest Young is helping his daughter Ju-ju with a story she is writing for her newspaper; a story about a young immigrant boy who was given away as a prize in a raffle at the World's Fair in 1909.
Ernest did not have the best start in life. One of his earliest memories was of his starving mother smothering his newborn baby sister. In desperation, she sends him away to America, to an unsure future. Nobody seems to know what to do with this half Chinese, half European boy, so he ends up being given away as a prize in a raffle. He is 'won' by Madame Flora, who runs a high-class pleasure parlour; the 'Tenderloin'. She employs Ernest as a houseboy and despite his disreputable environment, he has a happy and comfortable life. He falls in love with two girls who live at the Tenderloin; a feisty Japanese servant girl called Fahn who came with him on the boat to America, and Maisie, the precocious, tomboyish daughter of Madame Flora.
As the story progresses, we learn that he eventually settled down with one of his loves, but the story remains ambiguous as to which one until the very end, when we discover which girl he finally chose to raise a family with. Through Ernest's flashbacks, we see the horror of life for the poor children who were shipped over from China, to lead lives as prostitutes, servants or child-brides. We learn about the hypocrisy of society in general and how those in positions of authority would be quite willing to turn a blind eye in return for favours. The story is inspired by real-life people and locations and the author has done thorough research to paint an accurate picture of the era.
The story is a very human snapshot of history, as well as a touching love story. I admired how Ernest, despite everything he went through, remained innocent and kind throughout. We really feel an emotional connection to Ernest, Fahn and Maisie, as some of the things that they experience are heartbreaking.
Love and Other Consolation Prizes. is an engaging and memorable read. Even though I finished the book a few days ago, I find myself thinking about the characters and I think that the story will stay with me for a long time. The pace of the book is gentle and sedate, but I just couldn't put it down, I was so engrossed by Ernest's tale and keen to see which girl he decided to choose.
Bookbag also enjoyed Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok, a moving coming-of-age story about a Chinese immigrant family.
You can read more book reviews or buy Love and Other Consolation Prizes by Jamie Ford at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Love and Other Consolation Prizes by Jamie Ford at Amazon.com.
Like to comment on this review?
Just send us an email and we'll put the best up on the site.