Based on true events, Elizabeth Street is a multigenerational saga that opens in an Italian village in the 1900’s, and crosses the ocean to New York’s Lower East Side. At the heart of the novel is Giovanna, whose family is targeted by the notorious Black Hand–the precursor to the Mafia.
Elizabeth Street brings to light a period in history when Italian immigrant neighborhoods lived in fear of Black Hand extortion and violence–a reality that defies the romanticized depiction of the Mafia.
Here, the author reveals the merciless terror of the Black Hand-and the impact their crimes had on her family. Giovanna is based on Fabiano’s great-grandmother, and the book’s heroes and villains – such as Lieutenant Petrosino, the crusading cop and “Lupo the Wolf,” a cold-blooded criminal – are drawn from real life in this thrilling tale. While set in a dynamic historical context, Elizabeth Street is, above all, the dramatic story of the heroine, Giovanna, and how she triumphed over tragedy.
Part of the ‘A Book from every State of the Union’ Reading Challenge – New York.
Because of this the character are very real, and with that comes all the traits the human species carries with it. There are people the reader will love, and those they will hate; decisions made will either have the reader applauding or booing and getting ready to throw fruit where needed. Due to the fact that these characters are based on real people it is impossible to comment on whether the Author did a good job on their development, as to do this the reader would have to personally know those mentioned in this books pages, to be able to base their decision on. It is for this reason that I have chosen to not comment on development; I don’t know these people personally, and feel that to make any judgement on their development as the novel progresses would be doing them, and the Author, a disservice.
Having a family background through marriage of the Italian immigrant, I found this book very informative and learnt what is was like to be subject to meeting bureaucracy as the immigrants came through Ellis Island; having to make themselves understood in a country they hoped would provide them with a better life and, in some cases finding out that it really didn’t care. Not only does the reader find out about life in New York’s Italian community and how they survived through extortion and other tragedies that came their way, the reader also learns something of Italian history and the motivation that drove so many to weather the seas to come to the US. It is apparent from reading this book that the Author took great pains in making sure the historical details were right on the mark, as well as making sure they told the story of these immigrants with compassion and understanding; something that is so often lacking in other books on this topic.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone who, like our family, is here because of immigration particularly from Italy; those who are interested in the history of New York at the turn of the 20th century, and also anyone who is looking for an engrossing and different read.