Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Review: Clara and Mr. Tiffany

From the book: It’s 1893, and at the Chicago World’s Fair, Louis Comfort Tiffany makes his debut with a luminous exhibition of innovative stained-glass windows that he hopes will earn him a place on the international artistic stage. But behind the scenes in his New York studio is the freethinking Clara Driscoll, head of his women’s division, who conceives of and designs nearly all of the iconic leaded-glass lamps for which Tiffany will long be remembered.

Never publicly acknowledged, Clara struggles with her desire for artistic recognition and the seemingly insurmountable challenges that she faces as a professional woman. She also yearns for love and companionship, and is devoted in different ways to five men, including Tiffany, who enforces a strict policy: He does not employ married women. Ultimately, Clara must decide what makes her happiest—the professional world of her hands or the personal world of her heart.

My thoughts: As a student of both English and History, Susan Vreeland's historical fiction novel was incredibly appealing to me. I absolutely loved this story. Full of beautiful imagery from the glass studio of the Tiffany work room where Clara works to the setting of New York City, Vreeland creates lasting images that stick with the reader long after finishing the novel. Clara, the progressive, independent woman who fights for her professional rights while navigating the matters of her heart, captured my attention from the first chapter. Vreeland masterfully weaves together words and sentences to tell a story pulling the reader into the professional and personal lives of the main characters, while leaving one wanting to learn more about the early women's movements and the Tiffany company. A story of friendships, loyalties, and differing levels of affection make this novel a must read for any history buff.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book to review by TLC Tours and the publishing company but was not financially compensated in any way. The opinions expressed are my own.