I received this book in exchange for an honest review.
The Swan Bonnet
, set in Alaska in the 1920s’, does an excellent job of portraying what was at that time, still very much a frontier environment. As historical fiction this story has a lot to recommend it; a complex and interesting family dynamic; a careful depiction of various immigration cultures intermixing with each other and the Native American population; and the tension between those who protect the swans and those who would exploit them for short-term gain.
Told primarily from the perspective of 14-year old Dawn, the story lacks a compelling tone of voice due to the muted tone of Dawn’s internal monologue. When she observes that that she would rather draw than learn to knit there is no context. Is this a source of friction with her grandmother? Something that is valued? When she is accosted by a strange man, there is no sense that she is frightened. This detached viewpoint also makes Dawn seem younger than fourteen and keeps the reader at a distance.
In marked contrast, when the passages focus on the interaction and conversation between Dawn’s parents or her uncle’s tales, the narrative picks up considerably with those characters clearly telegraphing emotion a sense of drama. All in all, the story is interesting without being compelling.