Ernest is a young bi-racial Chinese boy of about 12 who is given away in a raffle at the 1909 Seattle World’s Fair. He is “won” by a “fancy” woman and enters the world of the red light district. Earnest’s story goes back-and-forth between 1909–1911 and 1962 when Seattle is again hosting a World’s Fair.
What I Loved
The writing of course! it’s Jamie Ford after all! I adored sweet, sweet Ernest. He was wonderful. And Professor True. I really liked him as well.
While this book is set in a “Sporting House” it does not contain graphic sex or graphic language. As I said, it is beautifully written.
What I Didn’t Like
The story. I just didn’t like it much. The only character I really felt for was Ernest. I felt the others were cardboard and cliched. I sympathized with Masie and Fahn. The plight of girls and women in those days often left them no choice but to sell themselves in such places as the Tender Loin or worse.
I got really, Really, REALLY tired of being beaten over the head with the Big-Hearted Whore and the Frigid, Bigoted Christian Do-Gooder. We get it. Really. We get it. Funny, but even today a lot of folks don’t see prostitution in a romantic light. Whatever. That got so old, in fact, that I nearly quit reading. I’m glad I didn’t though. But, yes, I saw it coming a mile away that the “bad” woman would try to do “good” for the widows and orphans and the “Good, Christian Lady” would blow their cover and spoil it. What a cliche. That was really not worthy of such an outstanding story teller as Jamie Ford.
I also thought the reporter-daughter was a bit out-of-sync with her time. 1962 was very much the 1950s (I was born that year). It was not part of what we think of as the ’60s. It was conservative. (Oh, and Liquid Paper wasn’t on the market yet. I found a few other picky things that don’t impact the story. It wouldn’t work well on thin, onion skin paper anyway. I know. I’ve used both.)
That I didn’t like the subject of the story does not mean it isn’t an excellent book. I just do not find prostitution romantic, though I understand the difference between being well treated and viewed as valuable in a place like Madame Flora’s compared to being kept drug-addicted at the “other” sort of establishment. I love Jamie Ford’s writing though and am already anxiously looking forward to his next book.