The cover is what grabbed my attention. That in conjunction with the title intrigued me. You can see why.
To begin with, it lived up to my expectations of being a light chic lit type of read. I’m not really into chic lit, but I’ve been trying to branch out lately. It begins with our main character Poppy loosing her father in the sinking of the Titanic. The first few sentences are, well, intriguing…
It was just as well I had ripped off my Ear Correcting Bandages. Had I been bound up in my usual bedtime torture-wear, I would never have heard my mother’s screams.
(I’ll leave you with the little mystery of what Ear Correcting Bandages and bedtime torture-wear are. If you are really interested, check out the book!)
The rest of the novel spans several decades of the 20th century taking Poppy through two world wars, the depression, and past the middle of the century.
It was interesting, and Poppy is a sufficiently naive, sheltered, and excentric character to make her childhood and early adolescence funny and endearing. Once she becomes a young woman I started struggling with the book. She had so little real guidance and help from the other women in her life, and the personality attributes that made her endearing as a child became obnoxious, selfish, and irritating. (This probably says more about me than about her.)
The last straw for me was when she essentially abandoned her children. She left them with her sister to raise. Not only did the fact that she abandoned them bother me, but the fact that not one adult spoke up to her about it. Mostly, I think, because it suited their own selfish desires. The only thing that saved me from throwing the book across the room was her step-brother Murray. He stood up to her and told her how selfish and worthless she was. That’s what I needed. Some evidence that this book wasn’t just about a selfish mustard heiress and her listless life.
I kept reading, and there really was more to the book than the self-absorbed life of a trust fund kid. Poppy is Jewish, though she was never raised that way. She was living in Paris as Hitler made his way to France, and she completely missed what was happening, although she did help many Jews escape Europe during that time. She only did that because she had more astute friends who knew how to put her money to use.
Roots and family also play a big part in this book, and by the end I had some soft feeling for a few of the characters. With the exception of Poppy’s youngest daughter, I had no use for most of the women in the book. Some of the men could be salvaged I suppose, Murray being one. I did return to enjoying Poppy again as a grandmother.
The dialogue in the last chapter was really wonderful, and clearly Graham is a talented writer. She can create great characters. I could not put the book down through the last third of it. I stayed up late reading, just to see what was going to happen. However, I cannot say I actually liked the book.
It kept me reading, but I did like it. No, I cannot explain this. Some books are like that…