Saturday, 26 August 2017

At First Light by Vanessa Lafaye

At First Light
By Vanessa Lafaye
Published by Orion (1 June 2017)

Publisher's description
1993, Key West, Florida. When a Ku Klux Klan official is shot in broad daylight, all eyes turn to the person holding the gun: a 96-year-old Cuban woman who will say nothing except to admit her guilt.
1919. Mixed-race Alicia Cortez arrives in Key West exiled in disgrace from her family in Havana. At the same time, damaged war hero John Morales returns home on the last US troop ship from Europe. As love draws them closer in this time of racial segregation, people are watching, including Dwayne Campbell, poised on the brink of manhood and struggling to do what's right. And then the Ku Klux Klan comes to town...

My verdict
At First Light is historical fiction with crime at the heart of it. Not just murder, but also bigotry, racism and violence. This novel is very much a book of modern times, even though most of the story is set in 1919. For me, the saddest realisation on reading it was that many things still haven't changed, almost 100 years on.

This is the story of Alicia Cortez, a 96-year-old Cuban woman who admits to shooting a Ku Klux Klan official in Key West, Florida. Alicia arrived in Key West from Havana, exiled by her family, and found love at a time of racial segregation, just as the Ku Klux Klan came to town. Vanessa Lafaye has set this love story during a fascinating period of history. Thanks to her flowing writing and vivid descriptions, I found myself totally immersed into Key West's daily life.

I loved Vanessa Lafaye's first book, Summertime, and never expected to love At First Light even more. Yet I did. I cried my way through the final chapters and shared for my love for it on Twitter soon after I finished. It is stunning from beginning to end, with so many diverse believable, real characters. The book is inspired by real events and real people. There's a Pinterest board (the link is at the back of the book), which really brings the story and characters to life after you've finished reading.

I was offered an ARC of At First Light to review on my blog, but I turned it down, not because I didn't want to read it, but because I didn't know when I'd read it. I was reluctant to say yes, as I have such as huge TBR pile. But when I saw the book in Waterstones soon after publication, I knew I had to buy it, read it and review it as soon as I could.

I'm so glad I did.

I'll be recommending this book to everyone, not just now but for years to come.

1 comment: