cover image Pacific Street CL

Pacific Street CL

Cecelia Holland / Author Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) $21.9

Holland's 18th novel (after The Bear Flag ) creates a vivid montage of San Francisco in its wild beginnings. The aptly named Frances Hardheart, an escaped slave with a quick wit, a sharp tongue and a knack for using people, has founded the Shining Light, a haven for non-whites. With her protegee, the beautiful and white Daisy Duncan, she sets up a stage show and bar, enlisting the aid of such likable characters as good-natured, white Gil Marcus and taciturn, Indian Mitya. Frances, aka Mammy, soon extends her influence to the city's rising political and social elite. Daisy, Gil and Mitya battle corrupt politicians and struggle to assert their independence from Mammy in one-on-one scenes that reveal the intricacies of their personalities and relationships. Crowd scenes, meanwhile, mirror the tumultuous growth of the city. Holland's grasp of history is neatly matched by her skills as a storyteller. (Feb.)