Keeping up appearances was the daily ’employment’ of society in the times of Dreamland. That ‘career’ included an everlasting search for more money to gamble, spend, waste!
All that Glitter to Keep Up Appearances!
In the days of The Gilded Age, summer, 1911, Peggy Batternberg’s family receives an unusual invitation. Sister, Lydia’s fiance wants the family to spend the summer at the Oriental Hotel, near the Long Island beach. Cooler beach possibilities attract many city people to America’s Playground of that era.
At 20 years of age, Peggy is an outlier in her society-bound family. She breaks out to spend her summer working at the Moonrise Bookstore. Society’s race for keeping up appearances runs against her desires to be an individual with a brain.
Peggy enjoys some benefits from being part of one of America’s wealthiest families. Yet she resents the snobbish and controlling atmosphere at home. She further resents their grasping to control her personal fortune.
Coney Island is, in the eyes of society of the era, a ‘wild and crazy’ place! Although she has to sneak around, Peggy finds she can indulge in the freedom she craves. She enjoys associating with people who would never be invited to dinner.
Especially Stefan, the rebel artist creating abstract art beside the pier. Most especially Stefan who becomes a deep love for Peggy…the man she would never forget.
Keep up appearances, even if it kills you
The Batternberg family is tightly bound by society and their need for vast wealth to ‘keep up appearances’. They deceitfully hide in a tangle of betrayal, deceit and deadly secrets. Murders accumulate with the noise and sweat of the super-charged amusement park of Coney Island.
Can the powerful Battenbergs (or someone else of their ilk) get away with murder and much more?
The extravagance of the Gilded Era is overwhelming at times. We love to ‘window-peek on the abundant living of early 20th Century years. That ‘money to burn’ attitude was the goal is without question. However, there were constraints in the lifestyle, especially women, that cover a level of social rot.
The brave, adventurous Peggy and her sister, Lydia, as heiresses were regarded as mindless chess pieces in the game of fortune. They were fair game for fortune hunting men.
Peggy found more people of honor in the Coney Island lower life order than she expected. To her own peril, she found she had mistaken opinions of some in her family and social circle. She saw that some of those people were not the rats she thought they were. Others were surprise rats!
An Author to Watch
The cover of the book, implying a person freefalling in life,tells a lot about this story. It spoke volumes to me every time I opened the book! This is the first book I’ve read by author, Nancy Bilyeau, but I will watch for more! I enjoy an author who has a backstory for readers telling details about the inspiration for this story. Dreamland was inspired by real people who surely enjoyed the Coney Island experience during their lives.
While giving readers a peek into the corruption, crime and cruelty of that time, Ms. Bilyeau doesn’t waste words and paper with unnecessary vulgarity, profanity or gory violence. I will candidly be described as CLEAN, riveting reading that you will want to stay up late to finish.