Review published on September 15, 2017.
Topped and tailed by the Seattle World Fairs of 1909 and 1962, respectively, Love and Other Consolation Prizes by Jamie Ford is the tale of Ernest Young, a half Chinese boy who is put up for raffle at the Fair of ’09. He subsequently grows up in and spends his formative years in a cribhouse or brothel in the city’s red-light district. Working as a servant he falls in love with Maisie, the daughter of the flamboyant Madam, and Fahn, a Japanese maid sold into servitude.
The story is efficiently set up and flows well moving between 1909 and 1962 as the narrative warrants. Told in the third person it is engaging enough but its strength is essentially the bitter-sweet love story that runs through this tale. This book has been especially well researched and the author has been painstaking in his historic authenticity. But this has been at the expense of the human drama. It has become heavy – and this confection has bowed under the weight of its historical icing. A fruit cake as opposed to a syllabub. He has seemingly taken an Almanac of 1909 and the two Seattle World Fairs and heavyhandedly fed them into this guileless emotional tale of the heart.
Less is more. Hanging coats of narrative onto historical hooks – he has hung too many hooks. Name checking facts does not create history – it detracts from the story and that’s a great pity as this is otherwise a very good read.
Amanda Aldridge 3/4
Love and Other Consolation Prizes by Jamie Ford
Allison and Busby 9780749022754 hbk Sep 2017