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Reviews of The Golden Gate by Amy Chua

The Golden Gate

A Novel

by Amy Chua

The Golden Gate by Amy Chua X
The Golden Gate by Amy Chua
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    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Sep 2023, 384 pages

    Paperback:
    Aug 6, 2024, 384 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Jennifer Hon Khalaf
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About this Book

Book Summary

Amy Chua's debut novel, The Golden Gate, is a sweeping, evocative, and compelling historical thriller that paints a vibrant portrait of a California buffeted by the turbulent crosswinds of a world at war and a society about to undergo massive change.

In Berkeley, California, in 1944, Homicide Detective Al Sullivan has just left the swanky Claremont Hotel after a drink in the bar when a presidential candidate is assassinated in one of the rooms upstairs. A rich industrialist with enemies among the anarchist factions on the far left, Walter Wilkinson could have been targeted by any number of groups. But strangely, Sullivan's investigation brings up the specter of another tragedy at the Claremont, ten years earlier: the death of seven-year-old Iris Stafford, a member of the Bainbridge family, one of the wealthiest in all of San Francisco. Some say she haunts the Claremont still.

The many threads of the case keep leading Sullivan back to the three remaining Bainbridge heiresses, now adults: Iris's sister, Isabella, and her cousins Cassie and Nicole. Determined not to let anything distract him from the truth—not the powerful influence of Bainbridges' grandmother, or the political aspirations of Berkeley's district attorney, or the interest of China's First Lady Madame Chiang Kai-Shek in his findings—Sullivan follows his investigation to its devastating conclusion.

Chua's page-turning debut brings to life a historical era rife with turbulent social forces and groundbreaking forensic advances, when race and class defined the very essence of power, sex, and justice, and introduces a fascinating character in Detective Sullivan, a mixed race former Army officer who is still reckoning with his own history.

Chapter One
1930

Inside an alabaster palace one January afternoon in 1930, a six-year-old girl hiding inside a closed armoire felt truly alone for the first time in her life.

Just seconds earlier, Issy, short for Isabella, had been in that tingly state of anticipation, half-excited, half-fearful, awaiting the moment when the door would be thrown open and she would be found by her sister, Iris.

Issy loved these special Sundays, when she and Iris and Mommy would put on their nicest dresses and go to the White Palace, where Mommy would change into her all-white skirt and stockings and bandeau and play tennis with her best friend, Mrs. von Urban. On those days, Mommy was always beautiful and nervous in a giggly way, and smelled a little different. She would give the girls the whole afternoon off, and while she and Mrs. von Urban had their tennis game, Issy and Iris would have the run of the hotel, which Iris, the older of the two by eighteen months, seemed to know like the back of her ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

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The juxtaposition of international politics with scenes from an intimate world allows us to recognize and feel the impact that these politics have on all individuals, even if they appear to be far removed. While much noir fiction sets out a formulaic murder mystery, The Golden Gate is layered with historical intricacies and social and racial commentary. It's also an entertaining and enjoyable read with extremely likable characters and an exciting plot with many twists and turns. It left me wanting more and wondering about the potential for future adventures with Detective Sullivan and Miriam...continued

Full Review Members Only (545 words)

(Reviewed by Jennifer Hon Khalaf).

Media Reviews

First Clue
This saga―the story has as many twisting corridors as the hotel―allows Chua to dig deep into the privileges and invisible barriers at work in any haves-and-have-nots meeting, with memorable results.

Booklist (starred review)
A riveting mystery... Chua skillfully creates tension around Sullivan's complex investigation, tempting red herrings, and thoughtful examination of war-time social divisions.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
The many threads of the plot as well as the author's concerns about race, class, and other matters come together in the cleverly imagined character and voice of her detective. Satisfyingly twisty, highly educational, and lots of fun.

Library Journal (starred review)
A successful, compelling mash-up of California history, ghost story, family tale, and social commentary.

Publishers Weekly
Thrilling... mind bending ... a richly satisfying historical mystery that draws on its setting for more than mere atmosphere.

Author Blurb Chris Whitaker
An epic, devastating, majestic mystery. The Golden Gate is clever, richly imagined and outright thrilling.

Author Blurb Laurie R. King
A tough guy with room for gentleness… Detective Al Sullivan and his crew are a joy, introducing us to a Bay Area that is both intimately familiar and surprisingly new.

Author Blurb Lisa See
All the elements I love in a mystery: A tough-guy homicide detective, an entrancing femme fatale, family secrets, a fabulous building in a beautiful city in a great time period, a touch of Agatha Christie, and a soupcon of Dashiell Hammett. And Amy Chua's terrific writing provides the icing.

Reader Reviews

Bookworm Becky

Whodunit!
Swanky, stunning, persistent… Headline! Death at the Claremont Hotel! Berkeley’s Claremont Hotel 1930 - after a game of hide n seek with her younger sister Isabella, 7yo Iris Stafford’s (of THE Bainbridge family) body is found in a pile of ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

1940 U.S. Presidential Candidate Wendell Willkie

Black and white photo of Wendell Willkie from 1940The Golden Gate by Amy Chua begins with the murder of Walter Wilkinson, who is a fictionalized version of Wendell Willkie, a Republican presidential candidate who lost to Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1940. Wilkinson and Willkie both died in 1944, but their cause of death was vastly different — Willkie died of a heart attack instead of the gruesome murder outlined in Chua's novel. Yet, despite the author's imaginative liberties, there are some connections between the two.

Overall, Walter Wilkinson follows the same political arc as Wendell Willkie, launching a presidential campaign against Roosevelt in which he builds up significant support within a short period of time. Willkie unexpectedly obtained the Republican nomination in August ...

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