Saturday, February 15, 2014
She walks in Beauty by Siri Mitchell
“This table is a pigeon trap. A dozen different forks and knives and spoons. Four different goblets. All of them just waiting to be knocked over or misapplied and mishandled. It’s a wonder anyone is ever tempted to eat.” -Clara Carter, She Walks in Beauty
This book is about Clara Carter, a debutant in 1890's, the gilded age. Corsets, balls, opera's and dazzling dresses. Clara has been tasked by her Aunt and father to win the hand of Mr. De Vries, the De Vries fortune Heir. She is hurried into society before she is ready and is moved like a pawn from one social event to the next. She catches his eye and the eye of his brother as does her best friend Lizzie. The story takes off from there.
What surprised me about this book is that it is a historical ficition that paints such a realistic view of what it would have actually been like to live in the Victorian Era. We follow Clara as she learns about the tenements in New York and the plight of the immigrant, we learn the horrors of corsettes and the horrible effects they had on young women at that time, the race to win a husband and all the preparation of debuting. When I first started this book, I had the impression that it was much more of a light hearted romance; What I actually found in this book was a discussion on much more serious topics. I enjoyed learning more of the truth behind this time period and I can see that the author really did her homework before writing this book.
What I liked: I loved learning all the details about the time period. Thanks to Scarlette O'hara, I knew that women desired to have a itty-bitty 18 inch waist, but I didn't know the extent of the horrors that women had to endure to get there. I loved learning all the details about Clara's coming out. The dresses and the rigourous schedule the girls had to maintain of late nights and lesson-filled days. The imagery and descriptions of the times were stunning. I loved Harry and his innocence and his strength. I loved Clara and her conviction to do right after everything. I loved that she felt like a real person, with struggles, desires, and feelings.
What I didn't like: I felt like this books romance took a back seat to the history lesson of the time period. You know me, the love story is the most important thing in a book for me, so it didn't live up to my expectations in that way. There was a lot of talking by the aunt, an inner monologue from Clara and a few conversations, but none that felt deep or especially moving. I think this authors strong points are in imagery and historical details and not in dialogue or character interaction. Dialogue moves a story along very rapidly and I think that is why the pacing of this story felt like it was a bit sluggish in points and why I wasn't as connected to some the characters esp. Harry and Clara as I would like to have been by the end. Also, the ending was a bit rushed for me. We learn alot of her circumstances, but the end to the love story, a bit rushed and not enough detail for me. Again, that is so more a personal preference.
If you like this book(or time-period) then try these books:
Edenbrooke by Julianne Donaldson
Blackmoore by Juliaane Donaldson
Drops of Gold by Sarah M. Eden