Book Review: Clara and Mr. Tiffany
Good morning friends and family. I’m back – maybe not full force with typing skills – but recovering nicely from the carpal tunnel surgery. It has been a strange few weeks, trying to do everything with just my left hand. I now have a new appreciation for these wonderful appendages. I still can’t type for long (it still hurts if over-used) but I wanted to tell you about one of the books I read for a TLC book tour. I also wanted to thank all of you for your kind comments, thoughts, and prayers. I definitely felt all of your good wishes.
Clara and Mr. Tiffany by Susan Vreeland is a beautifully written historical novel. Here is a brief summary:
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.
I liked reading about the conflict and dilemma Clara faced, especially during this time-period. We all like to think that the struggles for full equality for women began within our own lifetimes. This was a good reminder that this struggle has been going on for a very long time.
The story was also a good reminder of the tussle women experience between their professional lives and their personal lives. During the time period of the story (late 1800s) women were not employed after marriage. I’m sure there were a few exceptions, but Mr. Tiffany had a firm rule on the subject. Thus our protagonist, Clara, had to choose between her desire for love, companionship, motherhood, and her strong desire to express her art.
In addition to the story of Clara’s dilemma, I enjoyed learning about the glassmaking and New York City at this time. There’s a lot to enjoy in this story – a definite must-read for historical fiction lovers. In the back of the book there’s an interview between the author and her editor I found very interesting. In addition there’s a set of questions and topics for discussion, making this a great book club selection.