Published: September 3, 2013
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: TLC Book Tours
Rating: 3.5 / 5.0
Italy, 1905. Fourteen-year-old Lucia and her young mother, Teresa, are servants in a magnificent villa on the Bay of Naples, where Teresa soothes their unhappy mistress with song. But volatile tempers force them to flee, exchanging their warm, gilded cage for the cold winds off Lake Erie and Cleveland's restless immigrant quarters.
With a voice as soaring and varied as her moods, Teresa transforms herself into the Naples Nightingale on the vaudeville circuit. Clever and hardworking, Lucia blossoms in school until her mother's demons return, fracturing Lucia's dreams.
Yet Lucia is not alone in her struggle for a better life. All around her, friends and neighbors, new Americans, are demanding decent wages and working conditions. Lucia joins their battle, confronting risks and opportunities that will transform her and her world in ways she never imagined.
Lately, I've been interested in books about the immigrant experience and this one seemed different enough that it piqued my interest. So many books about immigrants just dealing with the characters coming to America and then starting their lives. In Swimming in the Moon, Schoenwaldt explores the lives of the immigrants once they are here.
I found Schoenwaldt's style to be very readable. She is a master of letting characters develop instead of making them develop. Most notably, I was taken aback by the character of Teresa. I know little about mental illness, so I really cant say whether or not her behavior was realistic--but it certainly seemed realistic to me.
I was very interested in Lucia's involvement in the Labor movement among the immigrants. The only book I've read that dealt with that issue was The Jungle. I really appreciate historical novels that teach me something, and Swimming in the Moon did that.
I did have some problems with this book. For one thing, Teresa's and Lucia's actual immigration seemed overly rushed. In fact, I wish Schoenwaldt had dealt with it different--perhaps telling the Italian part of their story and their migration as flash backs peppered through the rest of the book. For me, the story didn't really begin until Teresa and Lucia settled in Cleveland.
I also felt that parts of the book just didn't fit together. I was fascinated with Teresa and her mental illness and, as I said, Lucia's work in the Labor movement was fascinating. But I didn't really see how those two things really fit together. At times I almost wished Schoenwaldt had dropped one of the story lines and focused one developing the other a bit more. I also felt that the end of the book was a bit too easy, especially considering the rest of the book.
Still, Swimming in the Moon held my interest and I would recommend it to other fans of Historical Fiction.
I received a copy of this book from TLC Book Tours to read and to write an honest review. I received no other compensation.
Want a second opinion? Check out some of the other stops on the tour. (Links go to the blog, not the specific review):
Tuesday, September 3rd: Lavish Bookshelf
Tuesday, September 3rd: Excellent Library
Wednesday, September 4th: Tiffany’s Bookshelf
Tuesday, September 10th: Kritters Ramblings
Wednesday, September 11th: BookNAround
Thursday, September 12th: Reflections of a Bookaholic
Monday, September 16th: Book-alicious Mama
Tuesday, September 17th: A Lovely Bookshelf on the Wall
Thursday, September 18th: BoundbyWords
Monday, September 23rd: Books in the Burbs