Monday, October 24, 2011

Elizabeth Street

It's been a while since I have read an American immigrant story. For years they were a staple of my reading then I got out of the habit. I wasn't sure why but after reading Elizabeth Street by Laurie Fabiano I may have the answer. Cliches.
Elizabeth Street is the story of one woman's immigrant experience. In the early days of the twentieth century Giovanna Costa leaves her home in Italy with all of it's ties and tragedies to find out what has happened to her husband and make a new life in New York. With this new life comes new happiness and new problems. Giovanna's struggles to push her family out of poverty and into prosperity are a mish mash of every Taylor Caldwall, Belva Plain, Howard Fast and John Jakes novel you ever read.
Fabiano hits all the high points including tragic love, crushing poverty, unimaginably horrible tenements, the Black Hand, kidnapping, extortion, tested loyalties, etc. Not to worry though because Giovanna is that most common of all historical novel's elements--Ta Da-- The Woman Ahead Of Her Time. Sigh.
Elizabeth Street does have interesting history and credible settings. Carving out a life for yourself as an immigrant in New York City at the turn of the century would have taken extraordinary courage and perserverance and Fabiano pays believable hommage to all those difficulties. Fabiano also does a good job alternating the narrative between Giovanna's story and the present day but by the end of the book it's just another story you have read before.

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