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September 26, 2023

The Golden Gate by Amy Chua ~ a Review

by Donna Huber

In 1944, Berkeley Homicide Detective Al Sullivan is called to the Claremont Hotel as a presidential hopeful has been murdered. The top suspects are the granddaughters of an affluent family who happened to have been involved in the death of a child at the hotel in 1930. 

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. A free book was provided for an honest review.

book cover of historical fiction novel The Golden Gate by Amy Chua
September 2023; Minotaur Books; 978-1250903600
audio, ebook, print (384 pages); historical fiction

If you enjoyed Susan Elia MacNeal's Mother Daughter Traitor Spy (read my review), then you will want to pick up Amy Chua's debut novel The Golden Gate

The Golden Gate is a murder mystery, but it is also about racism, immigration, capitalism, communism, fascism, and the history of California.

The story is mostly set in 1944 and focuses on the murder of presidential hopeful Walter Wilkinson. However, there are flashbacks to the day 1930 when 8-year-old Iris is found dead in the hotel. 

I really enjoyed the writing. While the story skips between Al Sullivan's investigation, Iris's death, and the written "deposition" of Genevieve Bainbridge, the matriarch of the Bainbridge family and grandmother to Iris, Isabella, Cassie, and Nicole, it flows seamlessly. 

This is Chua's debut novel, she has written several nonfiction books focused largely on history. As such, she pulled quite a bit of California's history into the story. Sullivan was a history major in college as well as being a Mexican-American (he passes for white though) and so he reflects on some of California's history such as the fur trade, the gold rush, the building of the Golden Gate Bridge, etc. A few times it almost veered into info dump territory, but it is so interesting that I didn't mind.

Other aspects of California history such as the fact that Madame Chiang Kai-Shek, the First Lady of China. During WWII, China was our ally against the Japanese. But even so, it seems a little odd that she lived in the U.S. but perhaps it was safer than China.

Since reading Mother Daughter Traitor Spy, I've wondered why there are not more WWII books written about the West Coast, but then they would have to address the internment of the Japanese. Chua doesn't shy away from it but it doesn't take over the story either.

I really loved all the historical facts I learned. Be sure to read the author's note at the end to learn more about the historical details.

Al Sullivan is an interesting character. There is no indication that this is the start of a series and The Golden Gate is a complete stand alone novel as it is. But I would love to delve more in Al Sullivan. He discovered a few things about himself and I would love to see how this plays out for him the future. 

If you are looking for an engrossing novel where you also learn some stuff, then this is definitely a book you will want to read.

Buy The Golden Gate at Amazon

Donna Huber is an avid reader and natural encourager. She is the founder of Girl Who Reads and the author of how-to marketing book Secrets to a Successful Blog Tour.

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