(Review) The Nature of Fragile Things by Susan Meissner

Publisher and Publication Date: Berkley Books/Penguin Random House. February 2, 2021.
Genre: Historical fiction.
Pages: 384.
Format: NetGalley e-book.
Source: I received a complimentary e-book copy from NetGalley. I am not required to write a positive review.
Audience: Historical fiction readers. Readers of early 20th century California history.
Rating: Excellent.

To read more information about the book from the publisher: Berkley Books. At this link there is an audio sample.

Link @ Amazon

Link @ Barnes and Noble

Author Info:
The following link is Susan Meissner’s bio.
Website/ Facebook/ Twitter/ Pinterest

Links to read more information about the 1906, San Francisco earthquake.
History.com
USGS
Archives.gov-several photographs at this website
Wikipedia-don’t dismiss the write-up and photographs because it’s at Wikipedia


There are several videos of the earthquake destruction. I chose these two. The second shows San Francisco before the earthquake and afterwards.

Summary:

The story begins in 1905, San Francisco, California.

Sophie Whalen arrives in San Francisco and is immediately taken to the courthouse for a hasty marriage to Martin Hocking. She met and married him on the same day. They’d written letters to one another while she still lived in New York City. He wanted a mother for his young daughter, Kat. He wanted a wife without fanfare. He is a business man and travels often.
Sophie had not been in New York City long. She is from Northern Ireland. She left behind her mother. A brother lives in Canada.
Sophie’s heart goes out to Cat. Sophie’s days are spent caring for Cat and making the house a home. The relationship with Martin is chilly, strained, and with no affection.
Meanwhile, a young woman arrives at Sophie and Martin’s home. Her visit followed by the earthquake shake up the lives of everyone.

While reading The Nature of Fragile Things I am reminded of a quote by Maya Angelou.
“When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”

My Thoughts:

The Nature of Fragile Things is a heavy story. It is heavy with strong themes, it has a huge historical earthquake at its swirling center, and there is a mystery element. A book this heavy could cause gastric reflux, but it works, and it works well!

Themes in The Nature of Fragile Things: marriage, maternal health, courage, sacrifice, shame, ambition, obsession, bravery, complex trauma, death and dying, self-worth, abuse, betrayal, compassion, friendship, loyalty, parenting, society and culture standards, crime, and survival.

Several reasons why I love The Nature of Fragile Things:
1. Surprises. There are surprises about the characters I didn’t expect-I didn’t see coming.
2. Martin Hocking is sinister from the introduction. He is a character no one takes their eyes away from. I believe this is clever writing because it hides the possibility other characters are not who or what they claim to be.
3. The devastation of the 1906 earthquake and the fires afterwards are seen dramatically through the lens of Sophie. The descriptions and experiences brought additional tension and emotion to the story.
4. I have read (possibly) one other historical fiction on the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. I wonder why? This is a fabulous history spot to write about people’s lives through fiction. I love the time period. I love the history of this book.
5. I love the character Sophie. She is imperfect. She is not described as a beautiful, gorgeous woman. So often in stories the female lead characters are beauty queens. Okay, I am being overly dramatic. Most people are just in the middle. Neither the most beautiful nor the ugliest. In my opinion, middle of the road and imperfect people are believable. When the characters are believable I can relate to them. And, I can become swept up in the story.


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