Title: Love and Other Consolation Prizes by Jamie Ford
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Genre: Historical, Fiction
Length: 321 pages
Book Rating: B
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
For twelve-year-old Ernest Young, a charity student at a boarding school, the chance to go to the World’s Fair feels like a gift. But only once he’s there, amid the exotic exhibits, fireworks, and Ferris wheels, does he discover that he is the one who is actually the prize. The half-Chinese orphan is astounded to learn he will be raffled off—a healthy boy “to a good home.”
The winning ticket belongs to the flamboyant madam of a high-class brothel, famous for educating her girls. There, Ernest becomes the new houseboy and befriends Maisie, the madam’s precocious daughter, and a bold scullery maid named Fahn. Their friendship and affection form the first real family Ernest has ever known—and against all odds, this new sporting life gives him the sense of home he’s always desired.
But as the grande dame succumbs to an occupational hazard and their world of finery begins to crumble, all three must grapple with hope, ambition, and first love.
Fifty years later, in the shadow of Seattle’s second World’s Fair, Ernest struggles to help his ailing wife reconcile who she once was with who she wanted to be, while trying to keep family secrets hidden from their grown-up daughters.
Against a rich backdrop of post-Victorian vice, suffrage, and celebration, Love and Other Consolations is an enchanting tale about innocence and devotion—in a world where everything, and everyone, is for sale.
Based on a real life event and weaving back and forth in time, Love and Other Consolation Prizes by Jamie Ford is a bittersweet novel about a mixed race Chinese orphan who is raffled off during the 1909 World’s Fair.
The 1962 World’s Fair in Seattle proves to be quite illuminating to Ernest Young’s family. Much of Ernest and his wife’s Gracie’s history is unknown to their daughters, investigative reporter Judy and Las Vegas showgirl Hannah. At the age of five, young Ernest’s mother arranges for her son to travel to America where she hopes he will find a better future. Upon his arrival in Washington, he becomes a ward of the state and later comes to the attention of a wealthy benefactress who pays for him to attend a private boarding school. Unlike the wealthy children in attendance, Ernest and the other orphans experience racism and discrimination and when his answer to a question displeases his benefactress, she arranges to offer him as a prize for a raffle at the 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific World Exposition. The holder of the winning ticket is Madame Flora, the proprietress of a notorious yet popular high class brothel. Life at The Tenderloin is a surprisingly positive experience for young Ernest and he quickly befriends Flora’s daughter Maisie and scullery maid, Fahn. Ernest’s feelings for both girls run deeper than friendship but there is not much room for love in a brothel. When Madame Flora’s health begins to deteriorate, what will the future hold for Ernest, Fahn, Maisie and the rest of the staff at the brothel?
In 1962, Ernest is facing the harsh reality of Grace’s dementia and he is willing to make any sacrifice to protect her. With memories of the past already stirred up as Seattle prepares for the upcoming Century 21 Exposition, he is concerned when Judy begins an investigation into the orphan raffle in 1909 for an upcoming newspaper article. Fearing the effect the truth about his and Gracie’s history will have on their friends and daughters, Ernest tries to keep the secrets he and his wife have closely guarded for half a century. When Gracie becomes more cognizant of events occurring in the present, will she inadvertently reveal their hidden pasts?
In Love and Other Consolation Prizes, Jamie Ford presents a very poignant and realistic depiction of the hardships and prejudice that immigrants endured after arriving in the United States. Rich with historic elements, this incredible novel has a fascinating storyline that is heartbreaking yet ultimately uplifting. A moving novel which keeps readers waiting with breathless anticipation to learn the identity of the young woman who finally wins Ernest’s heart.