Saturday, March 30, 2013

"Winter Garden" by Kristin Hannah

 Winter Garden

Winter Garden - what a wonderful surprise.  

Southern California lawyer turned author Kristin Hannah has written over 20 books in the last two decades.  She started with historical romance in the early 1990s and graduated to contemporary romance with the publication of Home Again in 1996.  As her career progressed she has moved on to more complex character-driven novels.

Our library picked Winter Garden as the January selection for our 12 Months 12 Books Challenge.  It seemed an easy pick for our Thursdays With Maureen book club since readers were returning the book with glowing reviews

Winter Garden has turned out to be one of our favorite books in the five years of our club.  When asked who her favorite character is from all her books Kristin Hannah responded with Anya Whitson, the subject of Winter Garden.  

The book introduces us to two adult sisters as their father is dying.  Their relationship with their mother is strained and without their father to smooth the way things deteriorate rapidly.  Admittedly, setting the scene in the first half of the book starts to dragBut this is one of those books where the less said the better.  Just know that as the mother starts to tell her daughters a "fairy tale" that her dying husband made her promise to do, the book becomes impossible to put down. 

The period the fairy tale evokes is so beautifully and hauntingly told that it will stay with the readerAnya Whitson will indeed become one of your favorite characters.


Monday, March 11, 2013

"Clara and Mr. Tiffany"

One of our book clubs just finished reading the engrossing historical novel Clara and Mr. Tiffany by Susan Vreeland.  She is the author of other historical books including Girl in Hyacinth Blue and Luncheon of the Boating PartyHer writing centers around art related themes.

Clara Driscoll (b.1861 - d.1944) refers to a long forgotten worker in Louis Comfort Tiffany's stained glass studio in New York CityClara was in charge of the women workers and in the novel seeks artistic recognition from Mr. Tiffany.  It is said Clara was one of the highest paid women workers in the country during her time at the studio. Tiffany had a policy of only hiring unmarried women so once a worker was married she had to quit.  Clara anguishes over this and ultimately must decide what is most important to her.

Long forgotten letters between Clara and her mother and sisters and just one mention in a old booklet about a stained glass exhibit brought Clara Driscoll to the attention of art scholars and this author.  The letters indicate that Clara was directly responsible for the famous Tiffany dragonfly and wisteria lamps as well as some of the bronze bases to the lamps.  The Tiffany studio did not give credit to individual workers and it is particularly noteworthy that a woman was actually responsible for these beautiful pieces.

The book is an absorbing account of the artistic life in New York City in the early 1900s as well as piquing an interest in Tiffany and his beautiful creations.  The studio went out of business in the early 1930s and Clara died in obscurity having tried to continue her art but never achieving the glory of these masterpieces she had helped to create. 

the real Clara Driscoll at work

wisteria lamp
dragonfly lamp