Written by David Rain
Henry Holt and Company, 2012
Ben "Trouble" Pinkerton first appears to us through the amazed eyes of his Blaze Academy schoolmate, the crippled orphan Woodley Sharpless. Soon Woodley finds his life inextricably linked with this strange boy's. The son of Lieutenant Benjamin Pinkerton and the geisha Madame Butterfly, Trouble is raised in the United States by Pinkerton (now a Democrat senator) and his American wife, Kate. From early in life, Trouble finds himself at the center of some of the biggest events of the century—and though over time Woodley's and Trouble's paths diverge, their lives collide again to dramatic effect. From Greenwich Village in the Roaring Twenties, to WPA labor during the Great Depression; from secret work at Los Alamos, New Mexico, to a revelation on a Nagasaki hillside by the sea—Woodley observes firsthand the highs and lows of the twentieth century and witnesses, too, the extraordinary destiny of the Pinkerton family.
I liked David Rain's The Heat of the Sun much more than I expected I would at the outset. It begins as a typical boys' boarding school narrative which is not one of my favorite genres -- seems to me they're all pretty much the same story over and over. Fortunately, it gets better once the boys are out of school and on their own in the years leading up to World War II and during the war. I enjoyed all the many plot twists and turns, even though some of the coincidental meetings and developments were just a bit implausible.
It was a little difficult to accept that the Madame Butterfly story was real and that there had never been a famous opera based on the tale -- that was an awful lot of disbelief to suspend. I guess secretly I kept thinking that sooner or later one of the characters was going to say something like, "Hey, doesn't this all sound really familiar?" But that's a problem I have with a lot of historical fiction, and it wasn't enough of an issue to keep me from being thoroughly entertained. Definitely a good read, if you give it a chance.
Note: This review refers to an advance reader’s edition of the novel, provided free of charge by the publisher, through LibraryThing’s Early Reviewer program. No other compensation was received.