Monday, February 25, 2013

TLC BOOK TOUR and REVIEW: The Secret of the Nightingale Palace by Dana Sachs


Struggling to move on after her husband's death, thirty-five-year-old Anna receives an unexpected phone call from her estranged grandmother, Goldie, summoning her to New York. A demanding woman with a sharp tongue and a devotion to fashion and etiquette, Goldie has not softened in the five years since she and her granddaughter last spoke. Now she wants Anna to drive her to San Francisco to return a collection of exquisite Japanese art to a long-lost friend.

Hours of sitting behind the wheel of Goldie's Rolls-Royce soften Anna's attitude toward her grandmother, and as the miles pass, old hurts begin to heal. Yet no matter how close they become, Goldie harbors painful secrets about her youthful days in 1940s San Francisco that she cannot share. But if she truly wants to help her granddaughter find happiness again, she must eventually confront the truths of her life.

Moving back and forth across time and told in the voices of both Anna and Goldie, The Secret of the Nightingale Palace is a searing portrait of family, betrayal, sacrifice, and forgiveness—and a testament to the enduring power of love.

Paperback, 336 pages
Published February 19th 2013 by William Morrow Paperbacks
ISBN 0062201034 (ISBN13: 9780062201034)

About the Author
from her website

Dana Sachs was born in Memphis, Tennessee, and spent her childhood there. Throughout those years, she thought Memphis was the most boring city in the world, but she changed her mind when she left for college and realized that not everyone got to grow up along the Mississippi River, tramping through Overton Park, eating peach cobbler at the Buntyn CafĂ©, and listening to B.B. King, Alex Chilton, and the Panther Burns.  Obviously, it takes traveling far away to realize the things you most love about home. Since leaving Memphis, Dana has learned to love (and happily reside in) other complex and captivating cities, including San Francisco, Hanoi, Budapest, and Wilmington, North Carolina, where she lives with her husband, Todd Berliner, and their two sons.

Dana began her writing career as a journalist, publishing articles, essays, and reviews in, among other publications, National Geographic, Mother Jones, Travel and Leisure Family, and The Boston Globe. Her first book, The House on Dream Street: Memoir of an American Woman in Vietnam (2000) was chosen as an American Booksellers Association Book Sense Pick (the precursor of the Indiebound Next List). Her first novel, If You Lived Here (2007) was also a Book Sense Pick and was chosen for inclusion in Barnes and Noble’s Discover Great New Writers Program. Her nonfiction narrative The Life We Were Given: Operation Babylift, International Adoption, and the Children of War in Vietnam (2010) resulted from a Fulbright Foundation Fellowship in Vietnam. She is the co-author, with Nguyen Nguyet Cam and Bui Hoai Mai, of Two Cakes Fit for a King: Folktales from Vietnam (2003) and co-translator of numerous Vietnamese short stories into English. With her sister, filmmaker Lynne Sachs, she made the documentary about postwar Vietnam, “Which Way is East.”

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My Thoughts
One Sunday in the spring of her thirty-fifth year, Anna Rosenthal opened her eyes, sniffed at the air, and stepped back into the world after being away for a long, long time. Later she would describe May 28, 2005, as the day she "emerged from hibernation".

Most of this book took place in San Francisco, and a few moments were located in the Japanese Tea Garden.

Quick review:

 Did I enjoy the book?
-Yes, it was charming.

Is this the first time I’ve read this author? If so, would I read them again?
-Yes and yes.

Did I like the characters?
-Yes, for the most part. I particularly liked Goldie, the grandmother.

Did the cover grab me?
-Yes, it's pretty and mysterious.

Was the ending satisfying? 

-Absolutely. I think it was even better than I expected.

Do I want to add this book to my permanent book shelf? 

-I'm not sure. While I enjoyed the book, my permanent shelf is for books I'll read over and over again.

Having lost her husband after a long illness, Anna has been living in something of a limbo. Her grandmother Goldie never approved of her husband, and their relationship has been strained for years. Now Goldie has persuaded her to drive her across the country to San Francisco, in order to return an art collection to an old family friend. 

This modest story started out a little slow for me, but probably about a quarter of the way through it picked up and got more interesting.

Anna’s grandmother Goldie is an opinionated woman whose criticism can grate, and she has alienated her granddaughter years before when she made clear her opinions of Anna’s fiance. As Goldie and Anna embark on a cross-country trip together, the two couldn’t seem more different, but as the book carries on you begin to realize that they are more alike than Anna even realizes or would want to admit.

This book continually changes perspectives and performs time shifts as we go from Goldie during WWII as she was just blossoming into womanhood and discovering herself and what life held for her, and Goldie in her advanced years reflecting on the past with her granddaughter as they travel.

When touring through Goldie’s past, we are introduced to a whole other cast of characters, including Mayumi, the artistic Japanese woman who became Goldie’s best friend, and her somewhat stoic brother Henry, who were both sent away to a Japanese internment camp after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

In the current day, Anna has been living in limbo for two years, her heart damaged and scabbed over, after losing her husband to leukemia. She is hesitant to agree to her grandmother’s request for her to drive her from New York to California, so she can return some art to the Nakumura family. But in so doing, Anna learns as much about herself as she does about Goldie along the way.

I loved Goldie’s strength, although it often manifested in an abrasive and critical demeanor. Goldie believes that you don’t sit around waiting for happiness, but you make your own happiness. She is not one to brood on heartbreak, not one to be defeated. She is certain that if you aren’t invited to the party, then you just make your own party.

There is such great beauty throughout this novel. From the art collection Goldie is hoping to return to the Japanese Tea Garden that Mayumi and Henry’s father maintains, from the artistic storefront windows that Mayumi creates to the modern day graphical comics created by Anna, from the beautiful designer clothes that Goldie wears to the Rolls Royce that she drives, this book is filled with beauty. And it’s filled with hope.

This book follows two paths: One woman’s past being remembered, and another woman’s future being discovered.
In one flash, she remembered every single moment with Ford. In the next, she forgot him completely. (page 180)
My final word: There was a nice little twist in the end that I enjoyed and found very satisfying. I enjoyed the second half of the story more than the first, but the story in general was gentle, emotional, sentimental and affective. The characters were rich. Goldie is the true star of the story. Overall the book made me feel hopeful.

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for allowing me to be part of this book tour.

Check out the master schedule on their website:

Tuesday, February 19th: Mrs. Q: Book Addict
Friday, March 1st: Jo-Jo Loves to Read!
Monday, February 25th: Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World
Tuesday, February 26th: Lisa’s Yarns
Wednesday, February 27th: Jenn’s Bookshelves
Thursday, February 28th: Books in the City
Monday, March 4th: Olduvai Reads
Tuesday, March 5th: A Patchwork of Books
Wednesday, March 6th: Queen of All She Reads
Thursday, March 7th: BookNAround
Friday, March 8th: Dreaming in Books
Monday, March 11th: Great Imaginations
TBD: Book Dilettante

Buy Now:

Barnes and Noble
HarperCollins Publishers

Cover: B+
Writing Style: B+
Characters: A-
Storyline/Plot: A-
Interest/Uniqueness: B+

My Rating: 


I received a copy of this book to review through TLC Book Tours, in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not financially compensated in any way, and the opinions expressed are my own and based on my observations while reading this novel. The book that I received was an uncorrected proof, and any quotes could differ from the actual finished copy.

1 comment:

Heather J @ TLC Book Tours said...

Beautiful and hopeful make for a wonderful book in my opinion. Glad you enjoyed this one!

Thanks for being a part of the tour.