Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Belle Cora Phillip Margulies

Belle CoraBelle Cora by Phillip Margulies

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Bella Cora is an epic historical saga which captivated me early on but sadly loosed its grip as it drug to an end.  Arabella Godwin, born to a middle class New York family in the early 19th century had a wonderful childhood until her mothers death from consumption, quickly followed by her fathers sudden death. With her rebellious brother Lewis, Arabella is sent to live on a farm with relatives in upstate New York, to prevent them from becoming consumptive. It is with this move that Arabella's life takes a dramatic turn away from her puritanical up bringing and begins her journey to becoming one of San Francisco's most famous madams.
Spanning from 1828-1919, Bella Cora gives readers an intimate look at a rapidly growing and changing United States. From New York City, early farm life, the Gold Rush and westward expansion, Civil War and finally the great San Francisco earth quake.
Arabella, in an unlikeable, unsympathetic character right from the beginning. As a young child her drive to be good and to always do the right thing is sickeningly sweet. Once she is sent to relatives her story becomes focused on the injustices heap upon her by her aunt and her cousin Agnes, however, Arabella is almost never completely innocent, often finding herself in sticky situations.  Despite her character faults, she weaves a compelling story and you can't wait to find out what her next sticky situation will be.
The first half of this book is fast paced and full of dramatic situations and I quickly devoured it, not wanting to put the novel down.  The second half, beginning with her arrival in San Francisco slowed, became wordy and full of confusing characters and political situations as San Francisco and Belle Cora's house of ill-fame grew together.  I struggled through this section and had a difficult time understanding Belle's motivations, finding much of it unbelievable and to coincidental. 
Despite the books weak ending I still found it to be a great romp, full of murder, love, scandal and sex.  I recommend this for anyone looking for a light historical novel.

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