Book Tour Review & Giveaway: Cascade by Maryanne O'Hara

Thursday, May 16, 2013
Title: Cascade
Author: Maryanne O'Hara
Genre: historical, literary fiction
Series: N/A
Pages: 384
Published: April 30 2012
Source: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours for review
Rating: 4.5/5

A novel of art and desire in the 1930s

It’s 1935, and Desdemona Hart Spaulding has sacrificed her plans to work as an artist in New York to care for her bankrupt, ailing father in Cascade, Massachusetts. When he dies, Dez finds herself caught in a marriage of convenience, bound to the promise she made to save her father’s Shakespeare Theater, even as her town may be flooded to create a reservoir for Boston. When she falls for artist Jacob Solomon, she sees a chance to escape and realize her New York ambitions, but is it morally possible to set herself free?

Fans of Richard Russo, Amor Towles, Sebastian Barry, and Paula McLain will savor this transporting novel about the eternal tug between our duties and our desires, set in New York City and New England during the uncertain, tumultuous 1930s.

"There are so many ways of drowning, my dear."
-Cascade, p. 2

Duty versus desire, women's rights versus traditional gender roles, personal freedom versus drowning in responsibility - these are all themes handled so well in Maryanne O'Hara's involving look at life in small-town 1930's Depression. With a subtle touch and a keen eye for detail, this is an author that easily creates an in depth look at a town with its glory days quickly fading as the Depression marches on. With an obvious Shakespearean influence (Desdemona, anyone?), O'Hara's version of life in Cascade, Massachusetts wrangles with so many themes and ideas, but manages to pull them off nearly perfectly. Loosely based on the real story of the Quabbin reservoir, this fictional town full of fictional people reads and feels quite real from beginning to end.

This is a story that brings life and meaning to the art mentioned. As someone who is not particularly gifted at any form of it, I was pleasantly surprised at how well O'Hara conveyed the importance of art to main character Desdemona. With her gorgeous but spare prose, Maryanne O'Hara extends Desdemona's passion to the audience with ease; from the mention of Dez's own artistic creations to those that inspire her, the passages about art and color are some of the most compelling of the entire book. I found myself curiously Googling pieces mentioned by the characters, and loving them -- especially The Course of Empire by Thomas Cole. Particularly apt in a story about a town that has seen better days and in current decline, Cole's work is a subtle forshadowing for the story being spun about the town in question. In a Depression-era novel like this one, it's always refreshing to see a little joy in the characters lives and the artistic side of Dez's life clearly was one for Cascade.

Cascade is a slower-moving and paced novel. It's not action packed or fraught with immediate tension; rather O'Hara slowly but ably builds several conflicts and miscommunications that add into a larger resolution. These are themes and ideas that have been explored before, and will be again, but Cascade manages to be original in how it presents the issues it explores. The Depression is key to what happens to the town of Cascade and in Dez's personal life, but it's fully on the periphery, rather than a main focus for the story. This is a novel mostly concerned with the lives of Dez, her husband and fellow artist Jacob than in detailing the hardships across the country during the '30s.

Though there are some things in Cascade I am not too fond of reading about, adultery especially, but in this author's capable hands, it was pretty palatable. It works for the novel because of how much depth the author imbues in her characters and their disparate wants and needs. You can't really say there is a "bad guy" or antagonist in the story - rather Asa's wants and needs just don't meet up with Dez's life wishes and create a more meaningful struggle between the two of them to find a middle ground. Dez's cheating isn't about revenge or boredom - it's about feeling trapped in a complicated situation and who found someone she could truly connect with. It just wasn't the man she was married to. In another writer's hands, the affair would not have been so easy to understand or digest. I applaud Maryanne O'Hara's talent and characters for making it so real and not tawdry.

Cascade is a lovely historical novel. Fully-fleshed out characters, a vibrant, if declining town, and compelling storytelling make this 368-page novel read almost too fast. As a novel it is involving and detailed, as a debut it is double impressive. This is an author with a lot of talent and one who isn't afraid to take risks with her story and her unusual characters. If you're on the fence about reading it, don't be. This is one that will stick out and remain memorable for long after it is finished.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


CascadeTourBannerFINAL1 photo CascadeTourBannerFINAL1_zpsa7f9bbc0.jpg

Virtual Book Tour Schedule

Monday, April 29
Review & Giveaway at Peeking Between the Pages

Tuesday, April 30
Feature & Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Wednesday, May 1
Review & Giveaway at Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews

Thursday, May 2
Review & Giveaway at Flashlight Commentary

Friday, May 3
Review at Tiny Library

Wednesday, May 8
Review & Giveaway at Confessions of an Avid Reader

Thursday, May 9
Review at A Bookish Affair
Review & Giveaway at The Relentless Reader

Friday, May 10
Guest Post & Giveaway at A Bookish Affair

Monday, May 13
Review at Write Meg

Tuesday, May 14
Review & Giveaway at Bippity Boppity Book

Wednesday, May 15

Thursday, May 16
Review & Giveaway at Ageless Pages Reviews

Friday, May 17
Review & Giveaway at The Blue Stocking Society

Monday, May 20
Review at Amused By Books

Tuesday, May 21
Interview & Giveaway at Oh, For the Hook of a Book!

Wednesday, May 22
Review & Giveaway at The Worm Hole

Thursday, May 23
Review at A Book Geek

Friday, May 24
Review & Giveaway at The Picky Girl

Monday, May 27
Review & Giveaway at The Novel Life

Tuesday, May 28
Review & Giveaway at Always with a Book
Review, Guest Post & Giveaway at The Lit Bitch

Wednesday, May 29

Thursday, May 30
Guest Post at The Novel Life

Friday, May 31
Interview & Giveaway at Cheryl’s Book Nook

Monday, June 3
Review at Words and Peace

Tuesday, June 4
Giveaway at Words and Peace

Wednesday, June 5
Review & Giveaway at A Chick Who Reads

Thursday, June 6

Friday, June 7
Review at A Novel Review


  1. I'm with you a million percent on the handling of adultery in this one -- it's one of the things I'm super squeamish about and usually breaks a novel for me. O'Hara made me like her characters enough that I felt for them even if I disagreed -- the way I do about my friends -- and thus, I wanted to pat Dez on the back, shake her a little -- but never ignore her.

    I also agree with you about the writing style and the speediness -- I never would have said this was a 360+ page novel -- I read the ebook and would have guessed 200ish. It read so fast. Lovely review as usual!

  2. Thanks for this wonderful review of my novel, Jessie. I loved hearing that you looked up the artwork. So funny---the summer the book was in production (2011), I went to a local museum and what was on loan there, but the Course of Empire. I was so excited to see those paintings in person! The detail was amazing.

  3. I'm also not a fan of adultery in books, just something I'd rather not read about but if you say it's handled well then I'll definitely have to give this one a shot. Really sounds like a wonderful story. Fantastic review! :)

  4. The cover of Cascade caught my attention. I love historical fiction and I have read a couple of books set during the Depression. I like to read about that period of time because it helps me to think about what my grandparents went through. I have not read the book or any excerpts, but have it on my 'to read' list and it sounds like I won't be disappointed. Thanks for the review.

  5. The adultery aspect did make me a bit nervous, since authors have a tendency to make excuses for that behavior, while to my mind there really isn't a valid excuse. However, O'Hara did do a great job handling that topic overall, and I was really impressed with how Dez's relationship with the "other man" was presented. The art aspect was really vivid and well-written as well, I thought.

  6. oh wow!!
    that's about what i can say, except that this is a definite add to my WishList.......
    i appreciate the review!!!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Copyright © 2015 Ageless Pages Reviews. All Rights Reserved.

Amelia Theme by The Lovely Design CO and These Paper Hearts.