Author: Beatriz Williams
Published: May 2014, G.P Putnam's Sons
Format: Hardcover, 448 pages
Source: Personal copy
Passion, redemption, and a battered suitcase full of secrets: the New York Times-bestselling author of A Hundred Summers returns with another engrossing tale.
Manhattan, 1964. Vivian Schuyler, newly graduated from Bryn Mawr College, has recently defied the privilege of her storied old Fifth Avenue family to do the unthinkable for a budding Kennedy-era socialite: break into the Mad Men world of razor-stylish Metropolitan magazine. But when she receives a bulky overseas parcel in the mail, the unexpected contents draw her inexorably back into her family’s past, and the hushed-over crime passionnel of an aunt she never knew, whose existence has been wiped from the record of history.
Berlin, 1914. Violet Schuyler Grant endures her marriage to the philandering and decades-older scientist Dr. Walter Grant for one reason: for all his faults, he provides the necessary support to her liminal position as a young American female physicist in prewar Germany. The arrival of Dr. Grant’s magnetic former student at the beginning of Europe’s fateful summer interrupts this delicate détente. Lionel Richardson, a captain in the British Army, challenges Violet to escape her husband’s perverse hold, and as the world edges into war and Lionel’s shocking true motives become evident, Violet is tempted to take the ultimate step to set herself free and seek a life of her own conviction with a man whose cause is as audacious as her own.
As the iridescent and fractured Vivian digs deeper into her aunt’s past and the mystery of her ultimate fate, Violet’s story of determination and desire unfolds, shedding light on the darkness of her years abroad . . . and teaching Vivian to reach forward with grace for the ambitious future––and the love––she wants most.
My thoughts: Ever since reading Beatriz Williams' A Hundred Summers, I knew I would be picking up anything and everything she writes. This book is the first she is writing about the Schuyler sisters and I absolutely loved it! As soon as I started reading it, I found myself completely engaged and had a hard time putting the book down.
I loved that this is told using a dual time line and that both characters are such strong women. The stories really parallel each other at times, providing a unique look at how little things have changed for women when it comes to careers. Both Vivian and Violet are determined to follow their dreams, no matter what might be expected of them from their families or the times in general.
The two main heroines of the book, Vivian and Violet, are memorable in their own right. I loved each of them and wanted to stay with their story, wanting more each time the narrative would switch to the other. I loved getting to know Vivian - she is certainly a force to be reckoned with and not willing to marry just for the sake of marrying. She wants to make her mark and so, bucking tradition and the times, gets an apartment on her own and a job. This was certainly not the thing that privileged young girls did in the 1960s. And then when a mysterious suitcase shows up, she is bound and determined to find out exactly who this mysterious Aunt Violet is and why her family never speaks of her. So what does she do - she sets off across the world to track down this mysterious Aunt Violet, of course!
And, as it turns out, Violet is certainly no shrinking violet, that's for sure. She's just as fierce and fiesty as her great-niece, bound and determined to continue with her education and pursue a career, even though it goes against her family's wishes. She does marry, though soon finds herself in quite a scandal and then is never heard from again.
The time frames of this book, Vivian's 1964 and Violet's 1914, really made this book come to life and provided just the right amount of tension to keep you glued to the pages. Between the mystery, the romance and the history - everything comes together for a fantastic read. I loved getting to know Vivian and can't wait to read more about her and her sisters.