The year is 1911 when twenty-year-old heiress Peggy Batternberg is invited to spend the summer in America’s Playground.
The invitation to Coney Island is unwelcome. Despite hailing from one of America’s richest families, Peggy would much rather spend the summer working at the Moonrise Bookstore than keeping up appearances with New York City socialites and her snobbish, controlling family.
But soon it transpires that the hedonism of Coney Island affords Peggy the freedom she has been yearning for, and it’s not long before she finds herself in love with a troubled pier-side artist of humble means, whom the Batternberg patriarchs would surely disapprove of.
Disapprove they may, but hidden behind their pomposity lurks a web of deceit, betrayal, and deadly secrets. And as bodies begin to mount up amidst the sweltering clamor of Coney Island, it seems the powerful Batternbergs can get away with anything… even murder.
Extravagant, intoxicating, and thumping with suspense, bestselling Nancy Bilyeau’s magnificent Dreamland is a story of corruption, class, and dangerous obsession.
I have many feelings about this book. Most of them are possitive luckily so I’ll start with them. I loved loved loved looooved the era and setting. 1911, New York City, Coney Island. It can’t get any better than that for me. I absolutely love reading about the early 1900’s. And I thought that the author really captured the essence of it, especially the contrasting differences of the often corrupt ruling class versus the much lower classes. She really wrote that splendidly.
Although overall not the most likable character, I did enjoy reading about Peggy Batternberg, a 20 year-old heiress, for the most part. She was kinda the misfit of the family, prefering to work at a bookstore. Which is something I can totally understand, of course. And I’ve always been a sucker for misfit characters. In the story she was basically forced to leave her bookstore job and spend the summer with her family at a hotel near the beach. She agrees so it, but reluctantly so. Once at the hotel, dead women are found on the beach and Peggy unwittingly becomes involved in it all when the man she falls for gets arrested for the murders.
Now the not so good things. I really did enjoy the story for the most part but the last 40% or so were a little less interesting to me. I liked reading about Peggy, but sometimes I also wanted to strangle her for her lack of communication, especially towards her sister Lydia. Also towards the end the story became quite tangled too much. A lot at once seemed to be happening, maybe a little too much and my attention was getting a little lost in it all. I had wished that the identity of the killer had been more of a surprise. I wanted it to be someone unexpected but it wasn’t unfortunately. I also was a little disappointed by the ending in general, I must say.
But again I want to point out that for most of the book I was really into the story and enjoyed the various characters and of course the setting of Coney Island was very magical indeed. I also thought that a lot of the topics in the book are very relevant. For example the prejudice against immigrants was a big theme in this book and obviously that’s still relevant to today time and age. I just wanted to mention this because I think it’s something really important. So overall this book was good but not quite good enough for me to give it four stars. I’ve kind of been going back and forth about the rating but now I’ve settled on 3.5/5★
About the author:
Nancy Bilyeau was born in Chicago, Illinois, and grew up in Michigan. She studied English literature and American history at the University of Michigan, earning a bachelor’s degree, before moving to New York City to work in the magazine business. She was a staff editor at Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, Good Housekeeping and InStyle.
In 2010 she sold her first novel, The Crown, to the Touchstone imprint of Simon & Schuster. A thriller set in Tudor England, it was an Oprah magazine pick and nominated for the Crime Writers Association’s Ellis Peters Historical Dagger Award. She wrote two more books featuring the same main character, a Dominican novice named Joanna Stafford.
With her fourth novel, a standalone thriller set in the 18th century art world titled The Blue, she told a story of espionage and obsession with the most beautiful color in the world. In creating Genevieve, the Huguenot artist who goes undercover in a porcelain factor, she drew on her own background. Nancy is descended French Huguenot Pierre Billiou, who came to what was then New Amsterdam in 1665 and built a stone house on Staten Island. It’s the third oldest house in New York State.
Nancy is now turning her writing talent to creating novels set in the New York City of the past. For her fifth novel, Dreamland, she spent time in Coney Island and was assisted by the staff at the Coney Island Museum. She also did research at the New York Public Library, the New York Historical Society, the Museum of the City of New York, and the Brooklyn Historical Society.
Her novella, The Ghost of Madison Avenue, is also set in the New York City of the 1910s, with an Irish American widow who solves a mystery at J.P. Morgan’s sumptuous private library.
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