We gave it a B-
In 1944, a socially ambitious real estate speculator named Andrew Jackson Blackwood looks into buying a humble ranch on the Pacific coast. The owner — who, portentously, bears ”a blue-black scar at his temple that eerily darkened and lightened like the shifting winter ocean” — ain’t selling. The mysterious fellow is, however, looking to move a baronial estate in Pasadena, acquired from a fellow WWI soldier who was also a romantic rival. Ebershoff, author of 2000’s acclaimed The Danish Girl, has written a tangled melodrama that begs to be classed as a ”saga,” one stuffed with flashbacks overripe with tales of orphanages, pacts made on war fronts, and ”delicate mysteries of the heart.” He renders the characters with much sentiment but little feeling, devoting more care to descriptions of the soon-to-be-spoiled California landscape than to his characters’ souls.