Heather C's Reviews > In Sunlight, in a Beautiful Garden

In Sunlight, in a Beautiful Garden by Kathleen Cambor
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really liked it
bookshelves: 19th-c, audio-book, historical-fiction, united-states, disaster-event

This novel was a little bit different from what I expected of it; instead of being acutely focused on the events that transpired during and after the Johnstown Flood, it is a character driven novel based primarily on the lead up to the flood (although the aftermath is considered in lesser detail). While reading the book, I remember thinking that it didn’t feel like a book about a disaster at all, and I have read my fair share; the events of the flood itself come just a few pages prior to the end of the book. Primarily, it’s a story of life in rural/suburban Pennsylvania during a time when real wealth was being complied by the oil, steel, and railroad tycoons, which the everyman toiled, and went on strike, and lived day to day. This is very clearly evoked by the prose of this novel. There is also a thread about growing up and young summer love that twists throughout the plot.

As a reader, you become committed to these characters whose lives are destroyed following the flood, which inevitably occurs in the late pages of the book. These characters represent two essentially distinct groups: those of privilege who enjoy the country club that the South Fork Dam was built to please during the summer months, and the common man living their everyday life in the town below the Dam. The author doesn’t make the wealthy a clear cut bad guy, but she does depict them as careless (which they were) for not being worried about the reports about the safety of the Dam, because it didn’t affect them. I found the storyline relating to those from the town, particularly Frank Fallon and his family, to be more interesting than the laconic life above the Dam because there appeared to be more happening in their lives.

I would have liked more of a resolution to the novel. As the flood occurs so late in the novel, I was looking for more of the aftermath, but what I got was more of a dropped thread. Being that these characters were the focus of the story, rather than the event, I would have liked to have more about the effect on those who did live through it. You don’t need all the grisly details in an emotionally evocative book like this, but I needed a little more than I got. While this book might not have been what I expected going in to it, I did enjoy the experience of reading it.

Also, as a side note, I’m still confused by the title.

James Daniels does a very good job with the narration here. He enunciates very clearly with a comfortable pause between sentences. It doesn’t feel rushed, but his pacing does help to speed up the flow of the narrative that could sometimes feel a little bogged down otherwise. Beyond that, there isn’t much to say about the narration. It wasn’t a memorable performance, but not bad either.

This review was previously posted at The Maiden's Court blog.
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Reading Progress

April 4, 2015 – Shelved
April 4, 2015 – Shelved as: wishlist
January 8, 2016 – Started Reading
January 8, 2016 –
0.0% "looking forward to starting this today, it's been on my wishlist since I did a "books about the Johnstown Flood" article. hoping to read a few of them to feature around the anniversary May 31st."
January 25, 2016 –
45.0%
January 26, 2016 –
66.0%
February 8, 2016 – Finished Reading
April 21, 2016 – Shelved as: 19th-c
April 21, 2016 – Shelved as: audio-book
April 21, 2016 – Shelved as: historical-fiction
April 21, 2016 – Shelved as: united-states
April 21, 2016 – Shelved as: disaster-event

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