1906 is a surprisingly awesome book. Surprising for me because it’s a historical fiction novel and that’s usually not my cup of tea.
The story takes place in San Francisco right before (and during) the infamous 1906 quake which leveled most of the City.
Let’s start with the goods:
- Historical fiction – not usually my thing but there is so much rich history here that it serves as endless fodder for a narrative. I particularly loved hearing about the Palace Hotel during its heyday prior to the opening of the Fairmont.
- Awesome city setting – this is San Francisco at perhaps its wildest in history just prior to the 1906 quake. You can’t get better than this — expansive city, wild characters, lawless ne’er-do-wells, righteous police fighting for the just cause, the list goes on. Dalessandro leverages San Francisco’s full potential as a narrative setting.
- Characters – great characters to anchor the story and provide a face to represent wider societal influences in the city and US at the time.
- Narrative – compelling mystery drove the action forward very quickly for me, I read through the majority of the book in just a week of part time reading.
- Liberties - Dalessandro takes a fair amount of liberty straying from historical accuracy for the sake of narrative cohesiveness. Not a big deal.
- Minor errors – I recommend if possible to borrow this from the SF public library. Why? Throughout the book are small edits in pencil left by previous patrons who helpfully corrected minor geographical errors by the author (crossing out “avenue” and putting in “street” for example, or bigger errors like mistaking the Richmond for the Sunset district). It’s a funny feeling to see those corrections and realize this is *the* place to fix those errors: In the book. From the San Francisco Public Library.
- Light on quake – If you’re looking for deep introspection of the actual earthquake and an accurate assessment of damage it caused, this is probably not the book for you. The quake didn’t even happen until more than halfway through the book. Still plenty of quake and fire carnage for me, however.
I highly recommended 1906, this should be required reading if you live in SF.