Review: Cascade Blog Tour

I received this book for free from TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Cascade Blog TourCascade by Maryanna O'Hara
Published by Viking Adult on August 16, 2012
Genres: Historical, Romance
Pages: 368
Format: Hardcover
Source: TLC Book Tours

A novel of art and desire in the 1930s

Itโ€™s 1935, and Desdemona Hart Spaulding has sacrificed her plans to work as an artist in New York to care for her bankrupt, ailing father in Cascade, Massachusetts. When he dies, Dez finds herself caught in a marriage of convenience, bound to the promise she made to save her fatherโ€™s Shakespeare Theater, even as her town may be flooded to create a reservoir for Boston. When she falls for artist Jacob Solomon, she sees a chance to escape and realize her New York ambitions, but is it morally possible to set herself free?

Fans of Richard Russo, Amor Towles, Sebastian Barry, and Paula McLain will savor this transporting novel about the eternal tug between our duties and our desires, set in New York City and New England during the uncertain, tumultuous 1930s.

First Sentence: “During his final days, William Hart was haunted by drowning dreams.”

Cascade caught my attention when Aubra of Unabridged Chick wrote a glowing review of the novel. Of course, the incredibly gorgeous cover does not hurt either. My tastes do not align with Aubra’s all of the time, but, when she raves about a novel, my interest perks. Thus, when I had the opportunity to get onto a tour for Cascade, I jumped for it. Though I did not get quite as swept up into the flow of Cascade, I did love its simple beauty and pitch perfect portrayal of the the time period.

Though set during the 1930s and 1940s, Cascade does not focus on the more traditional subject matter of the Great Depression or WWII. Both affect Desdemona’s life, but only indirectly. The foundation of the book focuses on Desdemona’s relationship with her father and his Shakespearean theater. Their relationship was a close one, and she would do anything for him, even sacrifice her own quality of life. When the theater had to close due to monetary concerns in the economic downturn, Desdemona wed a persistent, fairly well-off suitor, Asa Spaulding, so that she and her father could have somewhere to live without having to sell the theater. Her father passes not long after, asking Desdemona to swear that she will reopen the theater.

While the business with the theater frames the plot, the real crux of the matter is Desdemona’s desires and the way they contrast with society’s expectations for her. Her husband expects her to birth his children and iron his shirts. Her dad has made her promise to put the theater first, and,unfortunately, has given it legally to Asa as a dowry of sorts, tying her to his fate. What Des really wants is to live by her art, and to do so with Jacob, a fellow artist. Though Asa is a nice man, he and Des do not share interests or dreams.

Love triangles and infidelity are not plot lines that I generally prefer, but Maryanne O’Hara parallels Desdemona’s romantic life with her professional life. She cannot be everything at once or please everyone. To be an independent woman in that era, a woman had to make certain sacrifices. Though Des didn’t always make what I deem the right choices, she does take responsibility for her own life. She does not mope or live regretfully; she tries, even when she knows she probably shouldn’t.

O’Hara’s depictions of both the small town of Cascade and the city of New York shine with authenticity. Even the pace of the story matches the different settings, with the parts of the book set in Cascade flowing by slowly and calmly, while New York passes by in a swift, almost confusing blur. More details in the New York section might have left me a bit more satisfied with the way the novel ended, but, from a compositional standpoint, it is brilliant.

While beautifully done, Cascade is a slow read. The pages did not fly by, particularly towards the beginning. If you like a fast pace, you will likely struggle. Once Des began to spread her metaphorical wings and stop living in the shadow of society’s expectations, the novel really picked up speed. The focus here lies more on mood, setting, art than on any sort of action.

Cascade will delight readers who appreciate lush writing and atmosphere. Though slow, Cascade certainly is worth pushing through for those who appreciate historical fiction with a unique viewpoint.

Favorite Quote:

“And Dez had no patience with these movies that had people simply looking at each other and falling in love. Love looks not with the eyes but with the mind. Where was the connection, what linked them together? Common interest? Understanding of the other? In the book, Vronsky so clearly saw and was attracted to Anna’s nature. The movie should show that, show her nature revealed somehow, should make clear that it was her soul that he loved.”

16 responses to “Review: Cascade Blog Tour”

  1. !! I commented yesterday about how your quote reminded me of Anna Karenina, and now today it has something that specifically references it. (And sounds a lot like it. Plot-wise, at least.)

    On actual review notes… I had actually never heard of this one before, and that cover kind of freaks me out, but I might give it a shot. It seems like most historicals are a bit slow to start, and the mood, setting, and atmosphere might make up for that :).

  2. Ashley says:

    I also hadn’t heard of this book before, but now that I have I have to read it. You’re review makes it sound like something I would definitely like and your quote quotes Midsummer Night’s Dream. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Christina, thank you so much for taking the time to write such an objective and well-written review. It’s been fascinating for me, as the writer, to see the different ways people react to this book. I’m really enjoying the experience.

    Happy holidays !


  4. heathertlc says:

    This sounds like the kind of book you have to drink in slowly. I’m definitely looking forward to diving into it myself!

    Thanks for being on the tour.

  5. trish says:

    I really love characters who take responsibility for their actions. In fact, characters who don’t do that are one of my biggest pet peeves!

    Thanks for being on the tour!

  6. Kayla Beck says:

    This is the wrong era for me, as far as historical novels go, but I just wanted to drop by long enough to say that I really like the cover. ๐Ÿ˜€

  7. Audra says:

    Awesome review — I’m grateful you gave it a try! What I loved about this book is that it really challenged me to be a better self — I wanted to condemn Des at times while at others, I wanted to hug her — and I loved how O’Hara unfolded history, Des’ personal development, and romantic entanglements in a way that felt real and authentic.

    • Christina says:

      I did! At first, I was like “AUDRA, WHY?”, but then I got sucked into Des’ story. She really does have a way of making you feel for her, but I’m very glad that the ending was only moderately happy, because, if everything had been hunky dory, I wouldn’t have been able to deal with it.

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