Based on true events, ELIZABETH STREET is a multigenerational saga that opens in an Italian village in the 1900′s, and crosses the ocean to New York’s Lower East Side. Elizabeth Street brings to light a period in history when Italian immigrant neighborhoods lived in fear of Black Hand extortion and violence-a reality that defies the romanticized depiction of the Mafia. Here, the author reveals the merciless terror of the Black Hand-and the impact their crimes had on her family. Giovanna is based on Fabiano’s great-grandmother, and the book’s heroes and villains – such as Lieutenant Petrosino, the crusading cop and “Lupo the Wolf,” a cold-blooded criminal – are drawn from real life in this thrilling tale.
This was one of those books where I had to know what happened. I was reading while I was making dinner, and eating dinner, and when I should have been sleeping. I couldn’t put it down until I knew what happened. I mean, I knew what happened at the end because it’s told in non-chronological order and I knew who died and when. But I couldn’t stop until I knew how it got there. Markus Zusak was right – “Mystery bores me. It chores me. I know what happens and so do you. It’s the machinations that wheel us there that aggravate, perplex, interest, and astound me.” – quote from The Book Thief.
I’m not one to cry, but Giovanna, the main character, was very inspiring. I loved how she found humor in the little details of life. And the tragedy that she faced just tore me up inside. I hope that if I’m ever faced with a family crisis that I would act just like Giovanna. Giovanna fights for her family in so many different ways: with money, literally, for justice, for protection, and, most of all, with love.
Great historical fiction makes you feel like this could be your story. And this was great historical fiction. Telling the story across multiple generations was a little confusing at first (I referred to the genealogy chart a LOT), but the whole story made me feel like knowing your anscestors and your past helps you know who you are.
I felt like I was living the immigrant life. I could picture the beautiful small town in Italy and how it could sound like a dream home but at the same time understand why so many people left their home and immigrated to America because of the prevalent poverty. And then you get hit with the reality of America that was portrayed as a dream land to the immigrants but the reality was much noisier, crowded, and dangerous.
Overall, it was a beautifully told story that left me thinking about family and how it’s the one thing people never stop fighting for. There’s tragedy, the brave honesty of moving on, true love, and a reminder for me to cherish the family I’ve got.
Content Rating: High, for 3 uses of strong language and violence that is intense but not overly graphic.
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