*I received this eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*
When I was scrolling through NetGalley looking for new goodies to request, this cover immediately grabbed my attention. After reading the summary I was really interested, and I’m glad I was approved for this title. Although I didn’t care for the book that much, it did make me realize that I need to know more about the real events and people that inspired the book.
The story of an African-American girl becoming a woman on her own terms against the backdrop of widespread social change in the early 1900s America. As a daughter of an upper class African American family in Washington D.C., Savannah is lucky. Feeling suffocated by the structure of society, Savannah meets a working-class girl named Nell who introduces her to the suffragette and socialist movements, inspiring her to fight for change.
This book has made me mad. Certainly at the events taking place in the book, but also mad that I didn’t really know about them. I’ve realized through reading historical fiction books just how skewed my history classes have been. I feel like most of my textbooks have really focused on just one perspective and have passed over so much important history. I knew that we were probably missing a lot, but I didn’t realize just how much until I really started to get into historical fiction.
This book really shows that. There’s an author’s note at the end of the book that goes over more of the real history that inspired this book, and I’m shocked. A lot of the names are familiar but I couldn’t remember a lot about them.
So, I really appreciate the educational aspect of this book. I think it did a great job of showing 1919 vividly and accurately. However, I didn’t really care for the book itself.
For one, the writing style was definitely not for me. Everything was very short, choppy, incomplete, and random. It was very difficult to tell how much time had passed between chapters and how the situations had changed. There were also a lot of incomplete thoughts and sentences, lots of “…” and “-” where the reader is supposed to fill in the blank without much to go off in the first place.
The characters didn’t feel very developed, despite this being a coming-of-age book. I’m sure the writing style had a big impact here, but Savannah never really felt real to me. Because the writing was so short and simple, reading more like a less-formal textbook at times, I never felt like I got a good idea of what was going on in Savannah’s head. Right from the beginning we’re thrown into Savannah’s changing world, so there wasn’t much “before Savannah” to compare “after Savannah” to once the conflicts arose.
The book was also very short, which I’m fine with since I’m more interested in the history that inspired the book than the book itself. Still, this short length combined with underdeveloped characters and offbeat writing style made for an overall dull read.
I appreciate the care the author took in keeping this book rooted in actual history. It seems like she really knows her history and wanted to convey this to her readers, which really comes through in the extensive author’s note. I would recommend this book to those looking to learn more about the world in 1919 without having to read it from a textbook. Just be aware that this book feels less like a story and more like a history lesson with a fictional twist.