'Dreamland' by Nancy Bilyeau

I read ‘Dreamland’ with the Pigeonhole reading community and loved the entire journey; there’s something extra special about shared reading. We also had the author join us, always a treat, and the additional bonus on Nancy’s Bilyeau’s photographs from research and modern day Coney Island.

The Blurb:

The year is 1911 when twenty-year-old heiress Peggy Batternberg is invited to spend the summer in America’s Playground.

The invitation to Coney Island is unwelcome. Despite hailing from one of America’s richest families, Peggy would much rather spend the summer working at the Moonrise Bookstore than keeping up appearances with New York City socialites and her snobbish, controlling family.

But soon it transpires that the hedonism of Coney Island affords Peggy the freedom she has been yearning for, and it’s not long before she finds herself in love with a troubled pier-side artist of humble means, whom the Batternberg patriarchs would surely disapprove of.

Disapprove they may, but hidden behind their pomposity lurks a web of deceit, betrayal, and deadly secrets. And as bodies begin to mount up amidst the sweltering clamor of Coney Island, it seems the powerful Batternbergs can get away with anything… even murder.

Extravagant, intoxicating, and thumping with suspense, bestselling Nancy Bilyeau’s magnificent Dreamland is a story of corruption, class, and dangerous obsession.

My thoughts:

This is a novel that explores excessive elitist lifestyles, of people living in privileged bubbles where wealth monopolises their lives but also sucks out their humanity.

Our perspective is through the eyes of one of the privileged class, Peggy, a young daughter from the wealthy Batternberg family – but Peggy is a protagonist who fights against the claustrophobic and restrictive life of a woman in an elite class. Peggy is very modern and desires independence and freedom from the controlling and watchful eyes of her domineering family.

Counteracting this is the world of Coney Island and its working class, liberal community. Both are set side by side on the coastline and the contrast couldn’t be sharper. I loved the backdrop and historical detail in the story.

There’s a lot going on in ‘Dreamland’, there’s the story of a young woman’s fight for independence; the story of the wealthy elite’s battle in a changing world to keep their archaic and blindness to reality and, the inner corruption and brutality this world creates wrapped up in a brilliantly crafted murder mystery read.

I found myself immersed Bilyeau’s deliciously vivid prose and into Peggy’s world; following her journey to leave the privileges of her class and make something of herself and into a dangerous path through Coney Island and Dreamland. This book is an adventure and a murder mystery; it’s about first love, loss, addiction, power, corruption, and the battle for independence.

Thoroughly recommended read for those who enjoy historical fiction and mystery genres.

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