Picks and Pans Review: Pasadena
Jane Eyre meets Frontier House in a sweeping romance that comes fully equipped with a wild-child heroine, secret pacts, war heroes, a mansion, even quotes from Emily Bronte. And lo! Who's that stranger crossing the moor? Okay, it's not a moor, it's Pasadena in the early 1900s, as developers begin to shape the city. And the wayward girl, Linda, is a fiery Californian living on the land her German father settled in 1866.
While the main story tracks Linda's escapades into womanhood, it is set up by a second one about a 1944 developer negotiating to buy the land on which she grew up. "Do you have any idea why Mr. Bruder is selling?" he asks his real estate agent. "It's a long story," she responds. Cue flashback to Linda's time. It's a clunky way into the saga, but readers won't complain; Ebershoff, whose novel The Danish Girl brought to life 1930s Denmark, keeps the drama aboil, even if you feel like throwing a bucket of ice water on him when he comes up with passages like "The body—once through the window Linda had seen him undress-like a roan's, strings of muscles in the thigh, across the breast, in the black pit of his groin." (Random House, $24.95)
Bottom Line: No Rose Parade but worth the trip