Friday, 3 May 2013
Cascade by Maryanne O'Hara
Cascade is a quiet, bittersweet kind of novel. It's very much character driven and focused on the choices real people have to make, between options that are on a sliding scale of desirability ("I'm sorry, but life is full of tough choices between less-than-perfect alternatives."). The first half of the novel is quite slow paced, as the main characters are established and the attraction between Dez and Jacob becomes apparent. Dez's husband, Asa, also has a lot of page time as it becomes clear that he's a decent person, just not the right sort of person for Dez. I liked that O'Hara wrote him that way, and didn't take the easy option of making Dez's husband a monster, in order to excuse her adultery.
The pace of the novel picks up in the second half as all the characters have to live with the consequences of events that happen in the middle of the novel, as Cascade learns whether or not it is to be flooded. Cascade is a hard book to write about as on paper, not much happens, but it's utterly compelling and contains some of the best characterisation I've seen for a long time. Dez, Asa and Jacob felt completely real and the choices they make are flawed but understandable. I'm sure that most readers will be able to relate to Dez's growing discovery that life isn't like a story with a guaranteed happy ending, but convoluted with twists, turns and falls.
The historical setting of the novel is well handled, and never overwhelms the main plot. Although I enjoyed reading about Dez's adventures as an artist in more liberal New York, I liked all the little details about small town American life the best, like Dez mixing vanilla cokes at the soda fountain and participating in town meetings. The historical elements of the story felt authentic, with no anachronisms.
On the whole, I'd definitely recommend Cascade to those who enjoy realistic, character-driven novels. The writing was excellent and I'll certainly be looking out for anything else O'Hara writes.
Source: Historical Fiction Book Tours
Published: August 2012
Score: 4.5 out of 5