Monday, 21 August 2017

Love and Other Consolation Prizes by Jamie Ford @JamieFord @AllisonandBusby

1909, Seattle. At the World's Fair a half-Chinese boy called Ernest Young is raffled off as a prize. He ends up working as a servant in a brothel in Seattle's famed Red Light District and falls in love with Maisie, the daughter of a flamboyant madam, and Fahn, a karayuki-san, a Japanese maid sold into servitude.
On the eve of the new World's Fair in 1962, Ernest looks back on the past, the memories he made with his beloved wife while his daughter, a reporter, begins to unravel their tragic past.

Love and Other Consolation Prizes by Jamie Ford is published in hardback by Allison and Busby on 12 September 2017 and is the author's third novel.

Jamie Ford has become one of my favourite authors, I read and reviewed both of his previous novels here on Random Things: Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet (June 2011) and Songs of Willow Frost  (August 2013).

It's been a very long time to wait for this new novel from Jamie Ford, I've followed his progress on Social Media and have anticipated this book with such eagerness. When my review copy finally arrived a few weeks ago, I was overjoyed, but also a little nervous. Would he be able to match his previous novels.

Whilst Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet does remain my favourite from this author, I have not been disappointed by Love and Other Consolation Prizes at all. The author writes what he knows and what he has a passion for, and the reader is treated to an exquisitely written story that is based upon fact. Once more, Jamie Ford draws upon his own Chinese-American heritage to produce a story that is both heart-breaking, yet uplifting.

The story opens in 1962; Ernest Young has been driving people to and from the World's Fair in Seattle, as he sits in the parking lot he thinks back to the first Fair that he attended, back in 1909 when he was just a young boy, with his life ahead of him. Despite his young age, Ernest had already experienced many hardships in life; his memory of his mother and the terrible sacrifice she'd had to make haunt him; he survived a ship journey to America, and now he was to be raffled off - the winner would take him home, and who knew what would become of him?

Ernest's new 'owner' is a brothel Madam, and as he settles into his new job, and adapts to his housework, his education really begins. Ernest also finds love, and it is Maisie and Fahn who really shape his new life and teach him how to be a man.

Seen through Ernest's eyes, the story is told over the two time frames and works very well. The reader knows that Ernest's wife is ill and that they have two daughters who are successful in life. It is Juju; their journalist daughter who has evoked Ernest's memories - she has discovered the story of the young boy who was raffled and wants to know more. Ernest, however, is worried that the secrets that have been kept covered for many years may emerge, and cause distress to those he loves the most.

Love and Other Consolation Prizes is an incredibly well structured story that deals with many issues. The author's knowledge and passion for the Chinese-American people and their history shines through in his impeccable writing.  His characters are carefully constructed and the reader cannot help but fall a little in love with Ernest as he travels his life journey. There is a joyous and special love story at the heart of this book along with an in depth look at social issues such as discrimination and identity.

Evocative and compelling, Love and Other Consolation Prizes is a story to savour, packed with characters to love, all played out against the wonderfully atmospheric settings of both early and mid twentieth century Seattle. A wonderful novel and one that I highly recommend.

My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.

Jamie Ford is the great grandson of Nevada mining pioneer Min Chung, who emigrated from China to San Francisco in 1865, where he adopted the western name 'Ford', thus confusing countless generations. 

Ford's debut novel, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is a New York Times bestseller, and has been awarded the 2010 Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature. It has been translated into twenty-nine languages. 

Having grown up near Seattle's Chinatown, Ford now lives in Montana with his wife and children. 

Find out more at
Follow him on Twitter @JamieFord

1 comment:

  1. Sounds a fascinating heartfelt story.