The Boy Who Granted Dreams by Luca Di Fulvio
Publication: March 23rd, 2015 by Bastei Entertainment
Number of Pages: 780
Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance
1909. Ellis Island. Arriving off one of the many transatlantic freighters are Cetta Luminita and her illegitimate baby boy Natale, fleeing the poverty and violence of their Southern Italian hometown. Having sacrificed everything, and endured every possible shame, Cetta has but one wish: that her baby should be an American, and grow up with the freedom to decide his own destiny. As they alight, US Immigration officials give Natale a new name: Christmas.
Growing up in the Lower East Side of New York with his mother, who works as a prostitute, Christmas is determined to be a success, whether a decent person or a gangster. The city is ruled by gangs from each community, Italian, Jewish and Irish, and survival is dependent on ruthlessness and strength. But Christmas has a vivid imagination, and an ability to tell stories that people want to believe…and thus is born his imaginary gang, the Diamond Dogs, which earns him respect within the ghetto. All this changes the day he saves the life of a rich Jewish girl Ruth, and despite their different backgrounds, he falls hopelessly in love with her. When circumstance tears them apart, Christmas vows that he will find her, by any means possible.
A sweeping saga of love and hate set in the Roaring Twenties, The Boy Who Granted Dreams is the story of Christmas and Ruth; the story of the dawn of radio, Broadway and Hollywood; and above all, a story about believing in the power of dreams.
Before I really begin this review, I want to say that this is based on the translation of the book. I feel that a lot of the things I felt may have been a result of translation. Things like writing style, pacing, and character development were probably skewed in translation. With that said, I didn’t like how the book was translated. It made the writing style feel kind of choppy. There was a lot of telling and not showing.
This book was too long. Much too long for some of the slow pacing. At a whopping 780 pages, the book packed a lot of historical detail into it. Yeah, well I was almost falling asleep during some parts. I skimmed a few chapters and still was able to understand the book easily.
The book tottered between interesting and boring all the time. With gangs, brothels, Hollywood, and crimes every other chapter, it made lots of sense that I would find certain story lines more interesting than others. On top of the constantly changing point of view, it flipped back and forth between past and present, comparing Christmas’ childhood and adult life. That’s not to say that the chapters were short. They were lengthy. The point of view did not change until a complete part of each character’s story was finished. I never had difficulty with distinguishing which part we were in. It was clear and easy to understand in that regard.
Historically speaking, it felt extremely extremely authentic. I could feel and clearly imagine every detail of the settings. The messiness of the streets, the use of slang, and the preservation of the overlying theme of “The American Dream” was well done and very nice. Each character struggled in their own way to reach the top and some of them were just heartbreaking. I do admit that sometimes it was overwhelming to have to read and remember every character. There were so many different subplots and frankly, I didn’t care about some of them. I felt like the author was trying to put many, many different situations all into one book in a way that they were all related. It worked in some parts but it didn’t in others.
I didn’t buy the romance. Ruth and Christmas may have started out as a possibility but as the book continued, I honestly found it really pitiful. I didn’t feel the chemistry between them at all. It felt very bland to me. I do think it’s quite amazing that these two characters were able to stay in love over the course of like 10 years. The other romance, the one between Cetta and her boss was much more believable. While it was really unexpected, the development of their relationship and interactions were both bitter and sweet. I definitely liked that particular storyline more than the other ones.
Also, it’s widely known that immigrants had it tough when they came over to America during this time period. It was as if every story they heard was wrong when they realized the truth that they’d have to start from the bottom. I loved that Di Fulvio addressed both the failures and successes and while I find it really, really unrealistic how well things worked out for Christmas and his gang, it was also kind of sweet.
I was pleasantly surprised by this one! After really thinking about all the things I liked and disliked I came to the realization that it was better than I had initially given it credit for. It’s ridiculously long and the romance is a little flawed but there’s a whole lot of good stuff in this.
I received this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. My opinions and review were not impacted in any way.
I don’t know if this author would be considered indie but I don’t think this is a particularly popular book. However, it’s pretty good! When you guys read translated books, do you find writing a problem?