1 Name of Book:
Contagion by Joanne Dahme
2 Words that Describe the Book
3 Setting where it took place/characters
For the setting of this historical fiction, Dahme chose a place she was quite familiar with being the current Watersheds Program manager at the Philadelphia Water Department.
The story takes place in the late 1800's in Philadelphia, a period when typhoid was an alarming concern.
Much of the action occurs at or around Fairmount Park located along the banks of the Schuylkill River. The park was created as a water works to provide safe drinking water for the citizens of Philadelphia. It is this idea that drives the plot behind Contagion, and Dahme's descriptions of the park were amazingly vivid.
Another important part of Contagion's setting includes a cemetery where the main character's husband has just finished a family mausoleum along what is called Mausoleum Row. This setting adds quite a bit of drama and suspense to the story.
The main character in Contagion is Rose Dugan, who at 13 years of age is promised to Patrick Dugan seven years her senior. When the story opens Rose is 18 and has been married two years. she has dark hair and green eyes the color of spruce. She and her friend Nellie are members of a Women's Park Beautification Committee, which is working to ensure the water's sanitization. She is gentle and passionate, full of life, and despite her age smart and confident enough to question her husband. When her friend Nellie is killed her passion turns to finding Nellie's killer even though it means going against Patrick's wishes. Summer Glau reminds me of Rose with her dark hair and green eyes, and Rose also wore a green cape.
Rose's husband Patrick, is tall, dark, muscular. He has a quick laugh that is smug and condescending. As the story progresses his actions and motives become more and more suspicious, and even though Rose defends his actions, the way he treats her and other characters in the story, it becomes obvious that this is not a man you want to antagonize. I think Ian would be the perfect Patrick because of his drop dead looks and his ability to be evil incarnate.
- I really liked all of Dahme's characters. I especially cared a about Rose and continually worried about her safety. One character that I have not already described, but who played a extremely important role in the action was Sean. In fact, the story is told in alternating POV's between Sean and Rose. Sean was the perfect antithesis to Patrick. As the chief engineer of the Water Works whose job it was to maintain the park, he is in direct opposition to Patrick's obsession to create a filtration plant. Sean is a man without airs unlike Patrick, and he is quite enthralled with Rose. His concern for her safety and the safety of all the citizens of Philadelphia is noble and made him a terrific character. Sean is not, however, without flaws which made him even more likable and real. Even the secondary characters were extremely well developed and included a scary housekeeper, and a tenacious detective, and a smart policeman, and a very sweet groomsman.
- Dhame's vivid description as I've already mentioned were amazing, and while it took me a few chapters to become totally engaged, once the back story and setting was established the tension between Patrick, Rose, and Sean more than made up for the slow beginning.
- I also love all of the foreshadowing Dahme used to help create suspense and intrigue. While some of the hints provided made a few prediction easy, I was quite surprise at the complexity the ending provided.
- Finally, I thoroughly enjoyed the different plot elements that made this mystery so intense. The environmental, and political were of course central to the story, but the love triangle, and murder kept me flying through the pages.
5 Stars or less:
I am giving Contagion 4.5 stars, mainly because the slow start might unfortunately put many middle grade and YA audiences from getting into the real story, which would be a true shame. I can see some really great teaching moments in this book and the mystery and romance made this an extremely fascinating and engaging book.
Source: Received book from Running Press Book Publisher