By: Kate Lord Brown
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Publication Date: May 2016
Reviewed by: Diana Hettinger
Review Date: May 2016
Sophie Cass is an investigative journalist for the New York Times, freshly graduated and trying to find her place in the world of journalism in New York City. Her story assignment is about artist Gabriel Lambert with whom she has an interwoven past. After going through a rough breakup, struggling financially and trying to make it on her own, she heads out to Long Island to meet the man who could change her life. Gabriel Lambert is a very private man who has been living with a life full of guilt and secrets. He does not want to be interviewed by Sophie, especially not about her great-aunt Vita. In order to “exorcise his ghosts,” he must come clean and talk about his past so that he may live in peace.
Flashback to Marseille in October of 1940. A young Gabriel Lambert is desperate to escape France after speaking out against Naziism. He turns to Varian Fry who heads the American Relief Center (ARC) in Marseille. Fry is an American journalist who is trying to save artists and other great thinkers who are in danger, even if it means risking his own life in the process. By obtaining fake Visas and other documents, he helps refugees flee France so that they can change the world. In order to stay out of the way of the Gestapo and to stay undercover, Fry and his team move to a house called Villa Air-Bel. In this House of Dreams, they all live and work but Gabriel finds something more. He finds Annie. They are not allowed to be together for her own safety and yet they will stop at nothing to be together. Through the novel, we learn more about Gabriel Lambert’s past and the story of Sophie’s great-aunt Vita. We must keep in mind, however, things are never all that they seem to be and just how far we will go for love and justice.
The House of Dreams is a novel that I could not manage to put down. I was instantly drawn in by the flashbacks to the past as well as the focus on the future. Many people would think that this switch from present to past would be confusing, however, it did nothing but pull me in deeper and add more suspense to the story. This was an extremely effective way to tell this story. I could not help but feel connected to the characters and the heroism of Varian Fry. As a reader who gets very emotionally involved in stories such as this, I was not surprised to find myself dealing with quite a few emotions. These emotions ranged from confused, surprised, humored and, later on, tearful. I absolutely, and not shockingly, cried at midnight while snuggling my cat because I was so depressed that the book was finished. What an absolutely beautiful, historical, and touching novel, Kate Lord Brown. I cannot wait to read another.
Quill says: The House of Dreams is a hauntingly well-written novel of art, history, and love that will leave you wanting more.