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February 17, 2019

Love of Finished Years by Gregory Erich Phillips ~ a Review

by MK French

Elsa came to New York in the early 1900's for opportunities and knew she could only rely on herself to make a new life. She worked in a Manhattan sweatshop and soon had the opportunity to work for a wealthy family on Long Island. This introduces her to the world of the elites right before the precarious entry into the Great War.

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Love of Finished Years
December 2017; Sillan Pace Brown Publishing
978-1640580114; ebook, print (312 pages)
This is Phillips' first novel, and it won the Grand Prize for best book of the year in the Chanticleer Reviews International Book Awards. There is a lot of research into the issues that German immigrants had to face in this time period. There is the loneliness and loss of family due to immigration, injuries, accidents and the subtle but determined ways that people can discriminate against others just because of differences in background and heritage. Elsa's is a heartbreaking and all too common story for those entering New York via Ellis Island, so having her sister urge her to give up her dreams soon after entering the country is likely what many new immigrants had faced as well. We also see the conditions within the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory before its famous fire.

The world of elite Long Islanders in the early 1900's isn't too much different from today, though there is the training for war and looming threat of anti-German sentiment for Elsa and the translation work she had done as a servant. She is devoted to Dafne, moving on with her and being as much a friend as a servant to her, so we see a lot of slice of life aspects of this time period. We're meant to commiserate with them and feel the pain and struggles that they have, but some of the conversational language is really stilted and unnatural feeling. I have more sympathy for the plight of Elsa's sister Sonja and her family when the war began, as they're assaulted and extorted for money because of their German last name, the threat of spying for Germany an empty but significant threat.

Following people through their lives in this tumultuous era is a great way for us to see what it was like to live then. Having Elsa live in the tenements and work in a sweatshop, then work in the serving class of Long Island shows us how different these social classes were, and that ultimately they're all affected by war and hardships. Those hardships are different due to their class and experiences, but war affects everyone and can linger for a long time afterward. It's a very emotionally moving story, and actually includes some discussion questions at the end, which would make this a great book club read.

Buy Love of Finished Years at Amazon

Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and golden retriever.

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  1. I have to be in the right mood to read a book like this, but it does sound interesting and I love an author who does their research.

    sherry @ fundinmental

  2. This is a great historical novel if you're ever in the mood for it.