I am, in general, a fan of Deeanne Gist. However, I feel some of her best works are her earlier ones, though, and this novel affirms that feeling.
I really appreciated the historical climate and situation of the 1893 Worlds Fair. The amount of detail poured into the book was done tastefully and I did not feel like it distracted from the story. The problem lies more with the fact that there is very little story. Punctuated by extremely short chapters that rudely segment any sense of flow - the plot cannot fill an entire book - let alone one of this length. We have no significant over-arching conflict that propels the story forward. All we have is tiny snippets of Cullen struggling with being pseudo-engaged, yet attracted to a woman who is not his fiancee. Even in that, though, we have very little understanding of why the financee exists in the first place - or why the relatively loveless "understanding" has not been rectified before this. This takes away significantly from the feeling of tension we should have. His struggle with his invention at the fair is a plausible one - but still done so lightly (and briefly) that it cannot fill the pages it aspires to.
Della is an even more poorly drawn character. There are few scenes that really help us dive into who she is or how she is feeling about Cullen and her struggle with teaching sign-language to the deaf is not explained well enough for us to feel the real conflict.
The entire book just...lacks. And the passion and tension Gist is known for almost entirely gets slammed into the last few pages of the book. It's an awkward transition. But, well, the entire book is a bit awkward. I was happy for a one-time read because of the vivid description of the fair but the pleasure, unfortunately, ended there.
IT HAPPENED AT THE FAIR by Deeanne Gist is an exciting Historical Fiction set in 1893 World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago. Filled with inventors, deaf teachers, faith, healing, danger and love. Join, Cullen McNamara, a farmer and inventor and Della Wentworth, a deaf teacher he hires to tutor him in lip-reading. For his invention is loud and he will need to be able to read lips. But their attraction is growing stronger, he has a girl back home on the farm. A masterfully,immensely delightful storyteller,Ms. Gist will keep her readers enthralled as they read "It Happened At the Fair". Another hit for this author. Written with her usual wit, and vivid descriptions, you feel as through you are at the World's Fair in 1893, all the excitement and drama in Chicago during this time period. How exciting indeed! Oh, there are also wonderful, delightful pictures throughout the book,of the different area of the Fair. What a delight to read of Cullen and Della and their story of love, faith,determination and inventions. Received for an honest review from the publisher.
HEAT RATING: SWEET
REVIEWED BY: AprilR, Review courtesy of My Book Addiction and More
Cullen McNamara finally agreed to set a wedding date with Wanda Sappington the day before he's forced to take his invention to the World's Fair in Chicago. His father has faith in him and has taken every last bit of money he has and made all the arrangements without telling Cullen, that way Cullen can't refuse to go, there are no refunds. His father also knows that Cullen has to get off of the farm because of his allergies.
It is so loud in the building where Cullen is located and he thinks he's losing sales because he can't hear when the people try to talk to him about his invention. When it's suggested that he learn to lip read, he finds the woman he saved, Della, is the teacher so he strikes up a deal with her to teach him. He can't afford lessons so he explores the exhibits of her choice in the evenings while she teaches him. Cullen and Della spend every evening together and he finds it hard to concentrate on his lessons because he finds himself thinking about her more and more. He loves Wanda but Della is the one on his mind.
He is having a hard time learning and is still losing sales. Cullen decides to have a demonstration but that gets sabotaged as does his exhibit. Not only has he wasted six months at the fair, he's lost the money his father invested and in turn they will lose the farm. Then when he thinks things can't get any worse, Wanda shows up unexpectedly and demands to get married immediately.
I just love Deeanne's books and this one is no different. A wonderful story about how people looked down on the deaf, even if a person was just starting to lose their hearing, which was the cause of some of the loss of Cullen's sales. Also I loved reading about the world's fair and the 'new' ferris wheel, elevator, etc., things we take for granted today and how they amazed people in 1893.
Let me begin by just saying that if your not a true history buff like I am, don't read this book! If you want a preachy book, don't read this! If you want a predictable romance, don't read this book! I feel it's an insult to Deanne Gist, who has invested incredible amounts of research and time, only to give it negative reviews because you don't like to read facts? I disagree, and I hope Miss Deanne ignores the haters. This book is nothing short of magnificent, brilliant, stunning, a feast for your heart and mind! Unexpected love will find you At The Colombian Exposition, in honor of the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus discovery. Instantly, I fell in love with Della and Cullen who find each other in rather dramatic circumstance amidst the enormous crowds of people! He's a country boy that invents an automatic fire sprinkler system who vows to honor his Mother's tragic death from a burning building. Hoping to sell his invention in Machinery Hall, he begins to lose his hearing and can't communicate with potential buyers from the loud noise. Della is a skilled lip reader and sign language teacher for the deaf, who at first was not willing to teach Cullen, caves in and agrees. The romance is built slow and steady, the way in reality it would be. Surrounded by the glory of each exhibit, I just couldn't get enough to the point I even went onto Google Earth, looking for my favorite site, the Wooded Island that still exists today, it's still beautiful in person! I can only imagine all the elegant people that graced it's path 100 years ago! I would rate it PG only at the end because of intimacy, (again people are overreacting that it was too intimate, but THEY WERE MARRIED, it was written proper, yet sexy. I see nothing wrong about that! I look forward to the continuing story, and hope it has as much fire as the first!
Deeanne Gist does a wonderful job of bringing details to life in It Happened at the Fair. The fair in this book is the famous 1893 Chicago World's Fair. Our two main characters, Della and Cullen, meet at the fair where both of them work for six months.
Cullen has invented an automatic sprinkler system and is at the Fair to demonstrate how it works and hopefully garner many sales. He has a major problem doing this...he is hard of hearing and is having trouble interacting with customers in the loud Machinery Hall where he is stationed.
Della could be the answer to Cullen's problem. She works to teach deaf children how to lip read. Could this be a solution for Cullen? Is it possible that Della will agree to tutor him after hours? Will the tutor-student relationship grow into something more?
The author has crafted a story full of details that made me feel that I was really back in that era. I found myself frustrated with certain people in regard to their attitudes about certain things. And I do admit that I sometimes found myself reading slower than I usually do in order to absorb the descriptions. I received a copy of this book for free in a giveaway on Lena Nelson Dooley's blog, A Christian Writer's World. I was not required to offer a review of this book.