Saturday, June 18, 2011

Clara and Mr. Tiffany by Susan Vreeland

Book description:
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.

This is a tough review for me because despite the fact that I really wanted to love this book, I just couldn't. I found Clara a strangely flat character despite the interesting times in which she lived; it was hard for me to feel an emotional connection to her. I always felt that Clara was remote and found myself more interested in the other women and the glassware than in Clara herself.

The writing was wonderful and I love that the story was inspired by true events, but I guess I think Vreeland tried too hard to tread the fine line between fact and fiction and so missed the mark on both. 3.5 stars even though I feel bad saying that...

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