Against the unforgettable backdrop of New York near the turn of the 20th century, from the Gilded Age world of formal balls and opera to the immigrant poverty of the Lower East Side, best-selling author Susan Vreeland again breathes life into a work of art in this extraordinary novel, which brings a woman once lost in the shadows into vivid color.
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, which he hopes will honor his family business and 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. Publicly unrecognized by Tiffany, Clara conceives of and designs nearly all of the iconic leaded-glass lamps for which he is long remembered.
Clara struggles with her desire for artistic recognition and the seemingly insurmountable challenges that she faces as a professional woman, which ultimately force her to protest against the company she has worked so hard to cultivate. She also yearns for love and companionship, and is devoted in different ways to five men, including Tiffany, who enforces to a strict policy: he does not hire married women, and any who do marry while under his employ must resign immediately.
Eventually, like many women, Clara must decide what makes her happiest—the professional world of her hands or the personal world of her heart.
©2011 Susan Vreeland (P)2011 Random House
Overall, I'm glad I listened to this book and learned about Clara Driscoll. It was gratifying to find out, through a little Internet research, that the story is based heavily on the real Clara's letters and actual stained glass pieces she is believed to have designed. The narrative, however, does drag on a bit, as other reviewers have noted, and there are a number of barely-developed characters of whom it is hard to keep track. Perhaps most importantly for me, the narrator's voice very often was unconvincing. I found her English accents unrealistic and her tone frequently sarcastic when sarcasm did not seem appropriate. The strength of this book is in the life and character of the real person, Clara Driscoll, who produced incredible works of decorative art (for which, until very recently, she received no recognition), while also managing a large department of mostly immigrant working women during a time when a workplace like Tiffany Studios was almost unheard of for women. Susan Vreeland unquestionably has a knack for bringing art to life.
I liked this story a lot and found myself checking the internet to see how much was based on fact. Anyone that is interested in that era should check this out. It has a lot of historical background in addition to the main storyline, but the union story at the glass factory was really interesting. Women don't appreciate what our predecessors put up with to get us to where we are not.
After the first few chapters I thought this would be a good book. The story started to become many. By the end of the book the plots were not only about Clare but women's suffarage, plight of immigrants in the early 1900's, birth of unions, Tiffany glass works, Louis Comfort Tiffany, a love story, personal tragedy, not to mention the tedious cutting, selecting and placing of every shard of glass. There was just too much to call it one story. I finished because the narration was good and I paid for it.
i so enjoyed listening to this book that no sooner was it completed than I started it again. It's a finely drawn historical novel that has clearly benefited from some thorough research. Clara, her historical setting and the people around her are entirely believable. The descriptions of the leadlight panels are stunning. Susan Vreeland has crafted this novel well and it's beautifully narrated by Kimberly Farr. Good one, Audible!
I'm about half way through this book and, although it's interesting about how Tiffany glass art pieces were created, this book is very dry. The personal details and relationships in Clara's life don't really come alive. There is a lot about different pieces she created, how she came up with the ideas and how they were finally made but it read more like a documentary than a novel that brought all these characters to life. Clara only really comes alive through her art but that gets repetitious after a while.
It is interesting to see how women worked and how their contributions were thought of in the late 1800's and early 1900's.
Mother, knitter, reader, lifelong learner, technical writer, former library assistant & hematologist.
While I did learn a bit about Tiffany Studios and Clara Driscoll, this book was far too much like an overwrought and overwritten soap opera for my taste. Clara Driscoll's life, story, and accomplishments could have been much more interesting in a different author's hands, but this Clara weeps, wails, and waits - for acceptance and recognition from Louis Comfort Tiffany, and for love (from LCT?) but doesn't seem to know what to do when she receives what she has been seeking. All in all, this Clara is not a very likable character and I think the real Clara Driscoll probably deserves better.
I really enjoyed the interesting story about the "Tiffany Girls" and their experience working as working women artists in the late 1800's and early 1900's in NYC. I found the author's description of the processes of creating the famous tiffany lamps and windows to be fascinating.
Girl with a Pearl Earring because of it's women's perspective and art creation.
I thought it was really interesting when the women stood up for their right to work and marched in unity down the middle of the road to protest the pressure they were receiving from the men's union.
It wasn't a page turning thriller, but I found myself wanting to read it quickly.
The intriguing story and wonderful narration combine in this riveting novel. I really enjoyed the history about the Tiffany stained glass production and the real life character Clara. I highly recommend this!
A wonderful story. I never associated the lamps and the jewelery store as being related. Clara was an amazing women for her time.
My review is similar to others in that I didn't love everything about this book, but am very glad I read it. In terms of social history of the period and a window into the art and business of the Tiffany creations, it can't be beat.
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