Best Italian immigrant stories set in 1920s Boston Reviewed By BookViral

"Richly detailed, emotionally engaging, and thought-provoking"

Boston historical fiction focusing on Italian immigrants
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  • ASIN: ‎ B0D57JJRJJ
  • Publisher: ‎ Mindstir Media (May 24, 2024)
  • Publication date: ‎ May 24, 2024
  • Language: ‎ English
  • Print length: ‎ 314 pages
  • Genre: Historical Fiction USA


The BookViral Review:

Louis Trubiano’s “What Once Was Promised” is a novel that intricately weaves the personal journey of Domenic Bassini, an Italian immigrant, with the broader tapestry of early 20th-century American life. The story explores the immigrant experience, the pursuit of the American dream, and the harsh realities that come with it. As a fine example Italian immigrant stories set in 1920s Boston, Trubiano’s novel stands out for its rich portrayal of cultural and familial themes.

The novel opens in 1951 with an elderly Domenic Bassini holding a gun for the first time in forty years, setting a tense tone and hinting at a life filled with struggle and unresolved conflicts. This scene transitions to 1914, capturing sixteen-year-old Domenic’s excitement and trepidation as he prepares to leave his Italian village for America. Trubiano effectively conveys the emotional complexity of this moment, blending adventure, sorrow, and a heavy sense of familial duty that dictates the course of his life going forward.

One of the novel’s strengths is its rich, descriptive prose. Trubiano vividly brings to life the immigrant quarters of Boston, allowing readers to feel the bustling streets of Boston’s North End and the darker undertones that touch every one of its inhabitants. The character development is another highlight, with Domenic Bassini portrayed as a multifaceted character shaped by his experiences and relationships.

Domenic’s interactions with Francesca, a beautiful young woman forced into a loveless marriage to Cologero Dragatto to repay her father’s debt, are particularly poignant.  Their secret affair during the voyage to America and Domenic’s subsequent moral and emotional turmoil are handled with sensitivity and depth.

The novel also explores the themes of identity and belonging, central to many immigrants’ experiences. Domenic’s journey is both physical and emotional as he faces the challenges of assimilation, the prejudices faced by Italian immigrants, and the internal conflict between maintaining one’s heritage and adapting to a new culture. These themes feed nicely into Trubiano’s overarching plot and underline the tragedies Domenic comes to face with the death of his wife Lena and only son. The latter gives rise to a twist that readers won’t see coming and leads to an emotionally powerful ending that will linger long after the last page is turned.

The historical context of the novel is well-researched and seamlessly integrated into the narrative. The depiction of the immigrant experience, the socio-economic conditions of early 20th-century America, and the rise of organized crime provide a rich backdrop for Domenic’s personal story. Real historical figures and events, such as Bartolomeo Vanzetti and the Italian anarchist movement, add depth and authenticity.

Richly detailed, emotionally engaging, and thought-provoking “What Once Was Promised” is a standout among Italian immigrant stories set in 1920s Boston, offering a unique and poignant perspective on a pivotal time in history. For those interested in stories about Italian immigrants in 1920s Boston, this book is an unreservedly recommended five-star read.

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