Friday, March 22, 2002

Written on the Wind: New Judith Pella Series

Written on the Wind introduces a new Judith Pella series, "Daughters of Fortune." It is 1941 Los Angeles, and the Hayes family has three young-adult daughters -- but alas, as far as father Keagan Hayes is concerned, no sons. The cold, harsh and domineering Keagan has even given boys' names to his daughters: Cameron, Blair, and Jackie. Not surprisingly, the daughters yearn for their father's approval and acceptance, the one thing they can never have.

Oldest daughter Cameron, age 24, enjoys a career as a journalist -- courtesy of her father's newspaper. Yet she determines to make it on her own, and quits the job to go work at a competitor's newspaper. Soon she finds herself on assignment in Europe, and then (her biggest dream) the Soviet Union. Through Cameron we experience Stalin's Russia, under siege by Hitler during the summer and fall of 1941. Due to the immediate crisis, Stalin has allowed American journalists in the country. The Soviet Union, though, is still under Stalin's grip, a closed society that finds it must become allies with the likes of Churchill and the U.S. The Communist country frustrates the journalists, who can never report the real news but merely translate whatever is printed in the Soviet's official paper, Pravda. Russian citizens stay away from foreigners, fearful for their lives. Hotels, factories and other buildings are of second-rate quality, in disrepair -- in sharp contrast to the U.S.

Cameron is all action, ready to grab the latest story -- maybe even win a Pulitzer! But as she tells fellow journalist and friend Johnny Shanahan, she thinks she can experience the war without it affecting her. Soon she becomes involved with the Russian people, and faces the terrible consequences that come about from such involvement, due to the strict government. Cameron finds her own walls coming down, though, to let people into her life, and feels torn between two friends -- Johnny Shanahan and Alex, a Russian doctor. She also must come to terms with her father and their estranged relationship, while discovering what it is she really wants in life.

The younger two daughters have minor roles, with enough problems of their own. Blair enjoys the Hollywood party scene, and soon discovers she can easily act out a pretend life. Her double-life deceives a man she comes to love. But will her house of lies be discovered? What then?

Jackie functions as the family peacemaker, the only "normal" one of the family. A Christian, she attends UCLA, where she develops a friendship with a Japanese-American man. Though Pearl Harbor is still months away, prejudice still abounds; Jackie's society will never accept such relationships between white and Asian people.

Written on the Wind is an enjoyable read through early World War II and its impact on the Hayes family, especially Cameron. The characters are portrayed realistically and deal with deep issues that bring lasting change and maturity. Obviously established as the first in a series, the book leaves many loose ends to hold the reader in suspense, awaiting the sequel.

1 comment:

Chelsey said...

i love the story! i had to read it for a book report soon as istatrd i couldn't put it down