Thursday, June 21, 2012

Clara and Mr. Tiffany, Susan Vreeland

I opened the beveled-glass door under the sign announcing Tiffany Glass and Decorating Company in ornate bronze. A new sign with a new name. Fine. I felt new too.

"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 that he hopes will 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, who conceives of and designs nearly all of the iconic leaded-glass lamps for which Tiffany will long be remembered. Never publicly acknowledged, Clara struggles with her desire for artistic recognition and the seemingly insurmountable challenges that she faces as a professional woman. She also yearns for love and companionship, and is devoted in different ways to five men, including Tiffany, who enforces a strict policy: He does not employ married women. Ultimately, Clara must decide what makes her happiest—the professional world of her hands or the personal world of her heart." This was a really interesting book about a little-known woman who contributed a lot to the world of stained glass. I really loved the luminous descriptions of the stained glass that Clara creates, as well as just beauty in general. Clara and Mr. Tiffany does have a pretty typical plot (a woman in late 19th century must decide between marrying and having a job), but it was made unique by the artwork that Clara creates. And of course, I was really mad that she didn't get any credit.  Clara was a real person, and it was great that she finally got credit (though too late for her to witness) for the things that she created. The relationships between her and the other girls working at Tiffany's is interesting, as are the men that she meets. I really liked the cover too. 

Susan Vreeland has written many other novels also about real artists and paintings, including Luncheon of the Boating Party, The Forest Lover, and Girl in Hyacinth Blue. I'll definitely be reading some of those in the future.

Read Clara and Mr. Tiffany:
  • if you like Susan Vreeland
  • if you are interested in stained glass 
  • if you like books about beauty and difficult decisions
  • if you like books set in New York in the 19th century
397 pages.
Very Good! I would recommend this book!

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