Gina and Harry gave up everything to be together. But they both want different things—from their marriage, from life, from each other . . . and from the shifting world around them. Gina, independent, compassionate, and strong, desperately wants a family. Harry, idealistic and fiercely political, wants to create a better world, a better country. At a crossroads and at cross-purposes, they pursue their opposing dreams at great cost to themselves and those near to them. Through years of passion and turmoil they rail, rage, and break each other's hearts, only to come face-to-face with a stark final choice that will forever determine their destiny.
Their journey takes them through four decades and two continents, from extreme poverty to great wealth, from the wooden planks of the troubled immigrant town of Lawrence, Massachusetts, to the marble halls and secret doors of a mystical place called . . . Bellagrand.
Simons recent novel, Bellagrand, fills in the gap between two previously published novels, Children of Liberty and The Bronze Horseman, delving into the lives and relationships of Harry and Gina Barrington over a period of four decades, beginning in 1911. Although I hadn’t read the books on either side of Bellagrand, I was easily caught up in the story and able to orient myself to the plot and the characters.
The novel centers on the relationship between Harry and Gina, and the great love that exists between them, a love that remains steadfast through every trial Harry puts it through. Because Harold Barrington is a cock-eyed idealist, a man who steadfastly adheres to his anarchic political agenda through arrests, imprisonment, poverty, and loss of citizenship. A man who never gives up, even though it means dragging his family into the weeds with him time and again.
Bellagrand, the palatial home in South Florida that Harry’s mother bequeathed him, is the only place - literally or figuratively - where Harry and Gina have any peace. In this beautiful tropical paradise, Harry (who is under house arrest) seems to have come to terms with his revolutionary ideas, and their idyllic life makes Gina happier than she has ever been. Bellagrand becomes symbolic of all she had hoped her life would be. Yet once Harry is free, he is drawn inexorably back into the world of fomenting revolution - with disastrous results.
I flew through reading Bellagrand, my haste fueled by my anger at Harry for his ridiculous adherence to The Cause, no matter how devastating it made life for his family. How could Gina continue to stay with him and put up with it? I wondered. Her devotion to him was legion, and it saddened me to think that she might have had a far better life if only she had stood her ground. Their sexual attraction never wavered, no matter how difficult Harry was being. Gina seemed to be under some sort of spell, bewitched by this man beyond even the scope of time, place, and “traditional” women’s values.
I always enjoy a huge family saga, especially if it’s historical in nature, and read through the 400 pages of this one in just over three days. Bellagrand was an interesting, fast paced read, but I found myself more aggravated with the characters than enraptured by them. I’m a sucker for a happy ending, and there was no such thing to be found in this novel, which didn’t really entice me to continue reading the next installment of the series. If you’ve read the previous novels, Bellagrand provides some hefty “meat" in the middle of that bookish sandwich.
Thanks to TLC Book tours for the opportunity to read this book.
Bellagrand (uncorrected proof), by Paullina Simons
published by William Morrow, 2014