- Read Date: October 22, 2019
- Rating: 3/5
- Format: E-book
A portrait of Victorian and post-Victorian Seattle through the eyes of Ernest Young, a Chinese orphan displaced from his home to the United States, Love and Other Consolation Prizes explores themes of humanity, belonging, and, of course, love.
When, beyond all odds, Ernest survives the brutal journey from China to Seattle, he is raised and treated as a charity case by community homes and wealthy patrons before ultimately landing in the employ of The Tenderloin, one of Seattle’s most notorious parlors. Here, Ernest grows into young adulthood, makes a living, and falls in love– twice over.
On the whole, Love and Other Consolation Prizes is pretty much in the middle of the road for me. I’ve had such a difficult time crafting a review, likely because very few elements of the novel really stood out to me. The novel mainly follows a drawn out love triangle and the reader knows the triangle’s resolution from the first few chapters, so without any significant air of mystery or intrigue to tack onto, my attention and interest tended to wane as the book progressed.
While I wasn’t totally wowed by most of the novel, I wasn’t really disappointed by too much either, with the exception of one element that I feel I must address. The story is split between the turn of the 20th century and the middle of the 20th century, with the mid-century elements being led mainly by Ernest’s daughter Juju, an investigative journalist who’s hoping to profile her parents and their childhoods. Juju’s writing was, frankly, irritating. There is a delicate balance of crafting a strong, trailblazing woman without making her sound condescending, and I, unfortunately, felt that Ford’s treatment of Juju swung largely into the latter category. Juju’s description and dialogue were both overly explained and overly explanatory, with an air of superiority creeping into everything she said and did. Perhaps the goal was to make Juju seem incredibly brash and patronizing; if so, this was a success. However, I find the trope of career women being unnecessarily domineering to be dated and without finesse, so I had a bit of a bone to pick with this particular component.
THAT SAID, was it enough to completely condemn the novel? Heck no. I’d chalk Love and Other Consolation Prizes up to being, well, fine. I’m not sorry I read it, and I’m certainly looking forward to my book club discussion on it (Shout-out to my Mixed Minds/Reading Between the Wines ladies! Hi! Thanks for reading!) and perhaps some of our chat will retroactively influence my opinions!
If you’ve read this, let me know your thoughts below!