Based on an actual historical event, Ford imagines the possible life of a young biracial Chinese/white boy who had been auctioned off at the World's Fair 1909 Seattle. In real life, apparently no one claimed the baby (in the book the child is a boy of about 12) and he disappears from history. Ford spins a tale of love, history, family (blood-related and not) and more.
Yung (later Earnest) watches his starving mother bury is newborn baby sister alive because their region in China is starving and the baby cannot be fed. Yung himself is given away by his dying mother and undertakes a perilous journey across the sea until he eventually ends up in Seattle. Earnest grows up and is eventually auctioned off at the World's Fair where he becomes a houseboy in a brothel and we watch him as he grows up. Ford splits the narrative so we see the adult Ernest navigating his wife's unreliable memory, being a father to two daughters and the closure of some of the issues of his youth.
The story in itself was a fascinating tale. But as other reviews note, it doesn't quite mesh together. Initially I found Ernest's journey really sad and compelling. But the love triangle of his youth, this period of history for sex workers in Seattle, etc. wasn't interesting to follow. I honestly found myself much more interested in the adult Ernest with his daughters (one a reporter who has a major role in revealing the past of her parents and one who is a showgirl-type) and trying to identify who Ernest eventually settled down with in the end. There were some clues in the "present" portions of the book but like other people I'm not sure splitting the point of views between his past and present worked and a straight telling (instead of the effort of keeping Grace's identity a mystery) would have been better.
In the end, though, I think I was left unsatisfied. I suppose what I really wanted was a happy ending for the actual little baby who was auctioned off and I'd like to think that he did manage to find his way in the world like Ernest did, even if it wasn't the easiest path. I appreciated that Ernest does get a relatively happy ending with closure but ultimately I can't say the book will leave much of an impression on me. It might not be a bad borrow for a library read or buy as a bargain book to read on a long trip and leave it behind if you're not interested.
Yey! I wasn't totally enamored with The Buried Giant and Nocturnes (and I've yet to read The Unconsoled and An Artist of the Floating World), but I'm a fan of his on the basis of Never Let Me Go, The Remains of the Day, and When We Were Orphans alone.
Congratulations, Mr. Ishiguro!
For twelve-year-old Ernest Young, a charity student at a boarding school, the chance to go to the World's Fair feels like a gift. But only once he's there, amid the exotic exhibits, fireworks, and Ferris wheels, does he discover that he is the one who is actually the prize. The half-Chinese orphan is astounded to learn he will be raffled off--a healthy boy -to a good home.-
The winning ticket belongs to the flamboyant madam of a high-class brothel, famous for educating her girls. There, Ernest becomes the new houseboy and befriends Maisie, the madam's precocious daughter, and a bold scullery maid named Fahn. Their friendship and affection form the first real family Ernest has ever known--and against all odds, this new sporting life gives him the sense of home he's always desired.
But as the grande dame succumbs to an occupational hazard and their world of finery begins to crumble, all three must grapple with hope, ambition, and first love.
Fifty years later, in the shadow of Seattle's second World's Fair, Ernest struggles to help his ailing wife reconcile who she once was with who she wanted to be, while trying to keep family secrets hidden from their grown-up daughters.
Against a rich backdrop of post-Victorian vice, suffrage, and celebration, Love and Other Consolations is an enchanting tale about innocence and devotion--in a world where everything, and everyone, is for sale.
I was quite enchanted by the setting of this book and the amount of historical knowledge I gained reading about the World's Fair.
Especially as Ernest is an immigrant coming from nothing, Seattle is mystical to read about and I very much enjoyed all of the details of the politics of the time and the influence that various people from different backgrounds had, especially when hypocrisies were exposed and future implications highlighted.
The timeline worked quite well. The book is in a manner a mystery, as our view of Ernest's wife flipflops and evolves. One of Ernest's daughters is a journalist which adds a fascinating aspect also. While the meat of the story is in the 1910s, the elements from the present day that are included serve to give the book a little more momentum.
I felt like most of the characters had their own motives and desires which made the story all the more intriguing to read. I loved how characters that I thought I would never read about popped up again and grew up in their own manners.
At points this was a slow read, but it was solid nonetheless. This book was worth reading simply for the historical aspects and for the way that the World's Fairs were brought to life, and that an intriguing exploration of characters and growing up was included made it even better.
To know this was based on a true story makes it all the more charming and romantic.
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Leaving your mother at age five, going with a stranger, and living in the bowels of a boat to America was not something anyone would wish for a child but what was done back in 1909.
Yung had to leave his mother because they both were starving, and her hope was for a better life for her son.
When Yung got to America, his name was changed to Ernest, and he spent his first few years at a school where he was always the underling even though a rich woman, Mrs. Irvine, was paying for his room and board.
One day Mrs. Irvine told Ernest she was taking him to the World's Fair. She didn't take him to enjoy it, but to be auctioned off in a raffle as a strong, healthy boy.
Ernest ended up being won by the owner of a brothel as a houseboy, and the place he met his wife.
Now his childhood and his life before children and marriage were coming to light. His daughter is a reporter and is investigating the World's Fair and stories she heard about those who attended. She knew her father had been there and wants to know everything.
Ernest didn't want to tell his daughter his story because then she would find out about her mother's life at that time. It was a life that wasn't anything to be proud of. Gracie was now suffering from dementia, and Ernest was hoping she wouldn't accidentally remember the life she led when she was young and tell her daughter.
We follow Ernest from his childhood to present day and learn what life was like for him in both times. We get a well-researched glimpse into everyday living during the early 1900’s as well as the life in a brothel.
LOVE AND OTHER CONSOLATION PRIZES is another marvelous, stunning, beautifully told story by Jamie Ford with characters that will steal your heart.
Mr. Ford knows how to tell a story and keep your interest with his meticulous historical research, his history lesson, and his superb writing style.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book - I hope you are able to also read it. 5/5
This book was given to me free of charge and without compensation by the publisher and Net Galley in return for an honest review.