Book Review: Lily Anne of San Francisco by J.Y.Flynn

The author, J.Y.Flynn, has taken an inspiration from the real life of two adventurous women, merged their lives into one fiction and presented truly engaging fiction for the entertainment of the readers. The story is set in late 19th century and continues until early 20th century. In an early age of 12 years, Lily Anne is forced to move from Chicago to San Francisco due to a health condition of his father, Calvin. Her mother, Maggie, is not happy with this move because she thinks that her daughter’s beautiful voice could have received more exposure in Chicago; however, her husband’s health comes first. Maggie wants Lily Anne to become an opera star and, with her voice, she really could become one. Lily Anne’s voice is not the only thing that she has been blessed with; her beauty has already begun turning heads of both men and women. Nevertheless, the only thing that has touched her heart is the city of San Francisco. As soon as she steps in the city, she falls in love with it and decides that she would stay in the city only. This is not the kind of promise that kids say and then forget; she is determined to stay in the city, no matter who stays with her and who leaves her. Therefore, it is no surprise that when her father needs to move to another place, she manipulates her mother in a manner that she allows Lily Anne to stay with her sister and her family. Maggie’s sister, Victoria, is married to Herbert Murphy and has a daughter named Peggy. Herbert is a man who believes in discipline and is quite old fashioned — well, not old fashioned according to the time the story is set in; in fact, some might say that Lily Anne is more forward thinking with respect to the time that she lived in. Anyway, after a few days, Kevin Riley, who is a wealthy businessman and a gambler, sees Lily Anne and believes that she is the one her dead mother has sent for him to marry. Although there is a huge age difference between him and Lily Anne, Kevin begins wooing her. When he asks her to marry him, she is in a dilemma because she does not know whether she loves him but does not wish to turn down his offer as marrying him would allow her to live in San Francisco forever.

The style in which J.Y.Flynn tells the tale of Lily Anne is mesmerizing, to say the least. I was captivated by her amazing story telling and the personality of Lily Anne. The leading lady, Lily Anne, is one of those characters whom you may choose to love or hate, but you certainly can’t ignore her. She is beautiful to the extent that she can get any man she wants, and yet she is unable to truly love anyone. She is so bewitched by the lifestyle and bling of San Francisco that she mistakes her obsession with they city as her true love. All her life, she makes choices that would allow her to live in this city. She accepts and leaves people with only this one motive. Some may call her manipulative, but I choose to call her an opportunist who knows what she wants and goes after her. Sometimes, her choices amazed me, but that’s what made her very dear to my own heart. She is one of those few characters who make me want to actually see them and breathe in their presence. The credit of her flawless portrayal goes to the author. Needless to say, Lily Anne is my favorite character. Nevertheless, each character has a place and importance in the story and without any of them, the book would not have been as captivating as it is.

As I said, the storytelling ability of the author is amazing. As a reader, I found myself interested to know what happens next. I was reluctant to skim read any part to avoid missing any interesting conversation. The innocence of young girls, who are unaware of the changes that age brings to their body, was really humorous and cute. Both Victoria and Maggie found it difficult to discuss the intimate topics, like menstruation and pregnancy, with their daughters, and this left Peggy and Lily Anne ignorant of many important facts of the life. As she mentions at one point,

“…When I had my first monthly, I thought I was dying until Peggy told me her mother said it was nature’s way to clean out our insides…”

When Kevin kissed her, Lily Anne believed that she was pregnant. In fact, Kevin’s reaction was marvelous when he heard her say the same to him. The innocent conversations of Peggy and Lily were not the only thing that held me tight to my seat; the mindset and beliefs of people in that age were quite outrageous and funny to read. Lily Anne, herself, believed it was useless for her daughter to be educated. Herbert is one character who always ticked me off. He is portrayed as a man who would order things around without consulting with the ladies. For instance, he ordered food and drinks in a restaurant without even asking the ladies what they wanted for themselves. Well, I believe he is the typical reflection of the men of that era.

This is definitely one of those books which I would love to keep in my collection forever. I appreciate the author’s skills and can’t wait to read another one of her books in the future. The tone of the book is lighthearted and conversations are delightful. There are many unexpected twists throughout the read, but none of them seem unrealistic. There is humor, seriousness, anger, disappointments, and every other emotion that life throws our way.

I would recommend Lily Anne of San Francisco by J.Y.Flynn to the readers who love reading realistic life stories of women who were far ahead of their time.

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