Today I’m reviewing The Girl from the Paradise Ballroom by Alison Love, which I recieved through Blogging for Books! Thanks guys!
Star Rating: ☆☆☆/5
“At last he heard the scuffle of feet, the creaking of hinges. The next moment the front door sprang open, and he came face-to-face with the girl from the Paradise Ballroom.”
Alison Love’s U.S. debut is set in England during World War II. I was first drawn to this book because of the gorgeous cover, and then because I am studying WWII in History currently, and I wanted to get a better view of the subject. Sadly, I felt that the setting doesn’t have an impact on the novel until the second half of the book.
In fact, the book didn’t pick up until the second half.
The summary on the back of the book describes it as “[an] epic love story of an Italian singer and a British dancer…” but I don’t think this describes the story at all, because this “love story” doesn’t occur for long, and not until you are 50% through the book. Really this is more a story of characters and family.
Olivia and Antonio meet for a brief minute at the Paradise Ballroom. It is not a love-at-first-sight story. Antonio actually despises Olivia in the beginning of the book, because she had an abortion. Well, there goes my respect for him.
The abortion was actually very interesting to read about. Because it is such a hot topic in today’s news, I think this book really opens your eyes to what it would be like if we didn’t have abortion clinics in our world. Olivia becomes extremely ill after getting her operation, and remembers how unsafe it was. She was told she wouldn’t be able to have children anymore because of it.
“…The abortionist’s flat with its reek of disinfectant, the tugging pain, the hot gouts of blood.”
After their encounter, Olivia and Antonio can’t stop thinking about each other, for many reasons. When they meet again on a chance encounter, Antonio discovers Olivia has been engaged to a rich gentleman. Antonio is already married with a wife, Danila, who is expecting.
Soon, their lives become tangled together and they become friends, and maybe something more (but not until page 187).
The Girl from the Paradise Ballroom is a character-driven story. Besides Antonio and Olivia, there is a large cast of characters you will get to know. Some are quite dull, while others are more intersting than the main characters. For example, Filomenta, Antonio’s sister, was probably my favorite. Antonio and Olivia’s relationship is not the only romance in this story, there is one surrounding Filomenta as well. Hers I actually found more intersting, and I wish the story was set around it instead. I think one of the reasons I didn’t like this as much as I wanted to was because there were so many characters, so there were a million plot lines.
I want to take a moment to appreciate Love’s writing, because it was really beautifully written. She is extremely talented at description, and I felt like I had transported into another world full of rich, elegant people at fancy parties. As a fashion illustraitor, I especially adored her descriptions of Olivia’s silk gowns.
In conclusion, I thought the plot was lacking, but I greatly enjoyed Alison Love’s writing. This is a slow paced historical fiction novel, so if this is not a genre you really enjoy, then this book is not for you.