Quick Announcement: We haven't been active the past 2 weeks due to technical issues with our website platform (Weebly). Soon, we will be moving and changing names (Literary Lattes). If we don't post as often as usual, it's due to that - we haven't forgotten you!
Here's the fabulous overview I know you've all been waiting for:
"For President Teddy Roosevelt, controlling the east-west passage between two oceans mattered so much that he orchestrated a revolution to control it. His command was to 'let the dirt fly' and for years, the American Zone of the Panama Canal mesmerized the world, working in uneasy co-existence with the Panamanian aristocrats. It's in this buffered Zone where, in 1909, James Holt takes that first step to protect a mulatto girl named Saffire, expecting a short and simple search for her mother. Instead it draws him away from safety, into a land haunted by a history of pirates, gold runners, and plantation owners, all leaving behind ghosts of their interwoven desires sins and ambitions, ghosts that create the web of deceit and intrigue of a new generation of revolutionary politics. It will also bring him together with a woman who will change his course or bring an end to it. A love story set within a historical mystery, Saffire is brings to vibrant life the most impressive and embattled engineering achievement of the twentieth-century"
Everyone I conversed with about this book said the same thing: the setting is so unique.
Initially I had my doubts. But soon after, I could sense the feelings and heartbeat of the book, which doesn't often occur. The geographical locations that had once been dull and uninteresting, that I had never before given merit to, came to life in a phenomenal way I doubt any other author could have captured as beautifully or artfully.
So, what is this setting? In short, the Panama Canal and certain Spanish districts in the surrounding areas. That being said, I can't begin to describe just how Mr. Brower crafted with subtle intricacy the significant details, the ordinary wonders, the beauty so often taken for granted. Most of all, it's when you're looking back that you fully realize how poetic and awe-striking each word, each phrase, each conversation, is.
I dislike political correctness, especially in novels, so I'll come right out and say what's on my mind. Maybe, just maybe, we've stereotyped Hispanic people (Not Mexicans, mind you, Hispanic people - see! That's a stereotype in itself.) Everything he said about anyone he met was strikingly new. He spoke without hindrance, without question, without permission. And it was perfect.
“We could fly, we could drive, we could send our voices across wire, and we could build monuments to the heavens. And in this time of wonder, nothing was more wondrous than what was unfolding around me – the connecting of the oceans, proof that there was not much left for humans to achieve. I thought about future generations that would look back and see the pinnacle of human achievement behind them. I felt sorry for them. Who, after all, enjoys knowing the best is behind them?”
This story is told in 1st person, and never changes voices or perspectives. Have a bad feeling? Don't. Because this (pinky promise!) is excellently told. Holt, filled with dry humor and witty remarks, is narrator and protagonist. He'll keep you on your toes, sometimes making you stumble over yourself.
Quick comment, when it comes to names.what a cool name. It's one of the reasons this book is so extraordinarily diverse. Miskimon, Winona, Raquel, and, of course, Saffire (It's spelled that way because using "ph" to make the "f" sound is silly, as the young lady in the book says.)
SUSPENSE & OTHER COMMENTS:
It's been quite some time since I had to re-read passages twice or thrice to understand the flawless logic and reasoning the characters were musing over. Yet this book had my head spinning more than one instance. But that's a good thing, right? While it was hard to follow and confusing, it was also intelligent and enlightening.
The suspense was...hard to describe. While you fairly knew who the perpetrator(s) were the entirety of the time, and you had an idea what was up regarding the motives, the pieces didn't fall into place until the very ending. And on that note, the ending was wrapped up incredibly, just like everything else about this book.
It's not what I would technically classify as a romance story… But, as Holt noted, "There was tension. Of the delicious sort.” So, there you have it.
If only school history books could be as interesting and enjoyable as Saffire. I learned a massive amount of information regarding Panama and the historical building of the Canal, so many facts and figures, it's crazy. I can legitimately say I've never read a fiction book for pleasure that taught more more, in regards to fiction.
"Life is messy. Numbers aren't. We can understand numbers but sometimes not comprehend them. Standing here, feeling tiny, that's the real impact this had on me."
"Sure, the canal would be a monstrous triumph of man over nature. The audacity to connect one ocean to another would be a combination of the world's largest man-made lake, the world's largest locks, the world's largest canal. But well within a lifetime, the decades would pass, and as they did, few would give thought to the wonder of it. Yet in a lifetime none would ever forget a first love or a sustaining love."
Historical Fiction, Adult, Mystery, Fiction, Christian Fiction, Romance
(It's completely clean, so pretty much an all-ages read. However, as mentioned in the review, the depth and reasoning will mostly likely surpass younger readers unless they're a prodigy :)
There's one torture scene that's a little intense and creepy. I believe there were just a few scenes where someone was knocked out, slapped, or blood was mentioned.
Barely any, aside from a walk on the beach in the moonlight (but there was an escort so... not really sure that counts as romantic ;)
Christian leaning, although never discussed or mentioned.
*disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest opinion. The thoughts expressed are entirely my own.*