Friday, February 21, 2014

Palisades Park by Alan Brennert

Growing up in the 1930s, there is no more magical place than Palisades Amusement Park in New Jersey—especially for seven-year-old Antoinette, who horrifies her mother by insisting on the unladylike nickname Toni, and her brother, Jack. Toni helps her parents, Eddie and Adele Stopka, at the stand where they sell homemade French fries amid the roar of the Cyclone roller coaster. There is also the lure of the world’s biggest salt-water pool, complete with divers whose astonishing stunts inspire Toni, despite her mother's insistence that girls can't be high divers.

But a family of dreamers doesn't always share the same dreams, and then the world intrudes: There's the Great Depression, and Pearl Harbor, which hits home in ways that will split the family apart; and perils like fire and race riots in the park. Both Eddie and Jack face the dangers of war, while Adele has ambitions of her own—and Toni is determined to take on a very different kind of danger in impossible feats as a high diver. Yet they are all drawn back to each other—and to Palisades Park—until the park closes forever in 1971.

Evocative and moving, with the trademark brilliance at transforming historical events into irresistible fiction that made Alan Brennert’s Moloka'i and Honolulu into reading group favorites, Palisades Park takes us back to a time when life seemed simpler—except, of course, it wasn't.
This is a book about a park where all the characters seem to be supporting the parks growth and development.  It is written in third person with multiple points of view, Eddie, a man who's dream it is to own a concession stand at the park, Adele, who marries Eddie and Toni, Eddie and Adele's daughter.  It chronicles the dreams of each of these characters in relation to the park.  The problem with these points of view is that you never really connect to any of them.  While there are hiccups in the characters lives, everything is still a bit too perfect. 
I love a good historical fiction and really like how the author touched on all the major historical events that took place during the parks reign.  Starting with the Great Depression, moving into WWII, The Civil Rights movement, the Korean War, and the Kafauver Committee (Crime in Interstate Commerce).  Another thing that Brennert does is use characters that were actually part of the parks history.  John Rinaldi was a superintendent and makes an appearance in the book.  Minette Dobson and Bunty Hill play pivotal roles in Toni's life and were fixtures of the park in history.  The Rosenthal brothers owned the park for over thirty years. And Melba Valle Rosa, a civil rights activist, leaves a lasting impression on Toni.
Since I have mentioned all these characters I will add that there are too many minor characters mentioned at the start of the book.  My head was spinning with all the names and it took me over half the book to work out who was who and which characters were actually important. 
I think this book would have been better as a documentary of the park instead of throwing in characters that one can't connect to and a soap opera type vibe where everything is solved within a few paragraphs.  It's an easy read but a bit of a disappointment.  What it did make me do was venture out to discover more about the actual history of the park.
The Friday 56, Book Beginnings, Literary Friday

Book Beginnings
London, 1867
I blame Charles Dickens for the death of my father.
pg. 1 of This House is Haunted

The Friday 56
As the little girls closed the door behind me, it sealed with a heavy sound, making me jump and turn round in fright, at which pointed I startled again, for standing next to her, wearing a similarly white, crisp nightshirt, was a little boy, perhaps four years her junior.  I hadn't seen him before.  Had he been hiding behind the door?
pg. 56 of This House is Haunted


gautami tripathy said...

I am intrigued enough to check it out...

Here is my Friday 56

~Lavender Dreamer~ said...

I think I would enjoy this book! Thanks for a good honest review! Hugs!

Juli Rahel said...

'This House is Haunted' sounds terrifying! Little children in books and films are always scary! Thanks for sharing :) Hope you have a good weekend!
my Friday post
Juli @ Universe in Words

Sandra Nachlinger said...

I've been curious about PALISADES PARK. Although I might enjoy it, I'd be put off by the introduction of too many characters too. Thanks for mentioning that. THIS HOUSE IS HAUNTED intrigues me, especially the opening. I enjoyed your post.
Here's the link to my Friday post: CAKE.

Kathy Martin said...

This House is Haunted sounds really, really spooky. I hope you are enjoying it. Happy reading!

Art @ Home said...

Ooooo your Friday 56 is very, very interesting!!!

Is this the same amusement park (Palisades Park) with the high diving horses? I loved Molaka'i and Honolulu.

I might read this one. I would love the history in it! Great review! Thanks for linking-up to Literary Friday!


Art @ Home said...

Haunted house, huh??? I might like it!

Linking from Freda's Voice,

fredamans said...

I'm definitely piqued!!!

Happy weekend!

Elizabeth said...

I have Palisades Park on my shelf.

I haven't gotten to it...wait...maybe I don't have it and wanted to read it. :) Can't remember.

The House is Haunted definitely sounds like something I would like.

THANKS for sharing.

I am including an entire review and giveaway for my book beginning since I haven't read anything new for the past two weeks. :)

Silver's Reviews
My Book Beginnings