Overview from Goodreads:
Against the unforgettable backdrop of New York near the turn of the twentieth century, from the Gilded Age world of formal balls and opera to the immigrant poverty of the Lower East Side, bestselling 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.
This book had been on my to be read list for quite some time. It wasn’t until I read it that I discovered it was based on a real person. Clara Driscoll was a creative, intelligent and feisty woman working at a time when creative, intelligent and feisty women were NOT appreciated. As far as the Tiffany Company was concerned, a woman could not even work there once she got married. Clara was enough of a value to the company that she was eventually made director of the Tiffany Studios' Women's Glass Cutting Department.
As the story goes, Clara was the driving force behind the creation of some of the most popular style Tiffany lamps. She took what she saw in nature ( daffodils, dragonflies, wisteria, etc.) and figured out to replicate them as Tiffany lampshades. Because she was a woman, she received very little recognition for her contribution to the creation of these still popular lamps.
This is one of several books I have read recently where the women have essentially no rights. It really did make me stop and realize how far women have come and how much we take for granted. Women like Clara Driscoll were very brave for taking a stand and helped pave the way for the rights women have today.
This was the first book I have read by Susan Vreeland. I thought it was extremely well written and an enjoyable read. I will definitely be looking at some of her other books and keep an eye out for any new material.
Thank you to Netgalley and Random House Publishing for allowing me to read this in exchange for my unbiased review.
The book was first published on January 11, 2011.
My rating: *****