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Pasadenaby David Ebershoff
Synopses & Reviews
Pasadena, David Ebershoff’s sweeping, richly imagined novel, is set against the backdrop of Southern California during the first half of the twentieth century and charts its rapid transformation from frontier to suburb. At the story’s center is Linda Stamp, a fishergirl born in 1903 on a coastal onion farm in San Diego’s North County, and the three men who upend her life and vie for her affection: her pragmatic farming brother, Edmund; Captain Willis Poore, a Pasadena rancher with a heroic military past; and Bruder, the mysterious young man Linda’s father brings home from World War I.
Pasadena spans Linda’s adventurous and romantic life, weaving the tales of her Mexican mother and her German-born father with those of the rural Pacific Coast of her youth and of the small, affluent city, Pasadena, that becomes her home. When Linda’s father returns from the war to the fishing hamlet of Baden-Baden-by-the-Sea with the darkly handsome Bruder, she glimpses love and a world beyond her own. Linda follows Bruder to the seemingly greener pastures of Pasadena, where he is the foreman of a flourishing orange ranch, the homestead and inheritance of the charming bachelor Willis Poore. As Willis begins to woo her with the promise of money and stature, Linda is torn between the two men, unable to differentiate truth from appearance. Linda’s fateful decision alters the course of many lives and harbingers a sea change just on the horizon, for Pasadena and its inhabitants.
Infused with the rich sense of place for which Ebershoff’s work is known, Pasadena remembers a Southern California whose farms edged the Pacific, where citrus dominated the economy, and where America’s tycoons wintered in a vital city’s grand hotels. Recalling the California character of self-invention that informs the work of John Steinbeck and Joan Didion, Pasadena is a novel of passion and history about a woman and a place in perpetual transformation.
David Ebershoff is the editor of a division of Random House called The Modern Library, but he left his heart in the old library. Asked by an Australian interviewer to name his "favorite books of all time," he swoons through a list of 19th-century novels, starting with Thomas Hardy's Jude the Obscure.
That won't surprise anyone who reads his latest work, a luxurious tragedy called Pasadena that could sit comfortably alongside Hardy's brooding classic. Everything in this novel weeps with regret — for the loss of love and land and potential, but especially for the passing of a grand literary style. It's slow and gorgeous, full of romance and disaster, swelling with the kind of heavy symbolism that went out with scarlet A's and white whales.
What's most brilliant about Pasadena, though, is the way the story comes to us. Its parts accumulate from shards of gossip polished into legend." Ron Charles, The Christian Science Monitor (read the entire CSM review)
"An epic tale spanning the history of a WWI-era southern California that's later lost to the flash of Hollywood and technoburbs....Lovely, but as exhausting as exhaustive." Kirkus Reviews
"The sophomore slump strikes in Ebershoff's muddled, uneven second novel, a historical work set in his native Pasadena....this book represents a significant drop-off from Ebershoff's brilliant exploration of the artistic world in The Danish Girl." Publishers Weekly
"Linda and Bruder are soulfully reminiscent of Emily Bronte's ill-fated Cathy and Heathcliff and their tragic depiction of unfulfilled romantic passion in Wuthering Heights. This is a rich blend of California history in a well-mastered plot that maintains an enduring element of surprise." Elsa Gaztambide, Booklist
"A meticulously researched narrative that combines elements of gothic fairy tale, nineteenth-century romance, and the rise and decline of an enchanted American city, Pasadena is a traditional family saga in the very best sense." Carolyn See, author of The Handyman
In the tradition of John Steinbeck's "East of Eden" and Joan Didion's "Run, River, Pasadena" charts Southern California's rapid transformation from frontier to suburb in the early 1900s.
About the Author
David Ebershoff is the author of The Danish Girl, a New York Times Notable Book and the winner of the Rosenthal Foundation Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the Lambda Literary Award. His collection of stories, The Rose City, was named one of the best books of 2001 by the Los Angeles Times. His books have been published in more than a dozen countries to critical acclaim. Since 1998, he has been the publishing director of the Modern Library. He has taught at New York University and Princeton, where he is now a visiting lecturer. Originally from Pasadena, he is a graduate of Brown University and the University of Chicago, and he currently lives in New York City. He can be reached at www.ebershoff.com.
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