Friday, June 10, 2016

A Desperate Life in a Gilded Cage

Vera Longacre, born to wealth and high society, finds her life as a society matron unbearable. She tells her mother that she's lonely, but it's much more than that. She has money, is a leader in society, and lives at the most prestigious address in Manhattan. But she's married to a cold man who offers her little affection and the teas and charity dinners don't fill her days with pleasure.

When she attended Vassar, she befriended Bea Stillman, a lively young woman who challenged Vera to get out of her perfect rut and live. Vera does. She feels freedom for the first time. The taste is intoxicating, but the consequences are disastrous.

Now married and secure in her position, Vera longs for the freedom of that long ago period, but she buries it under a placid facade and her duties until Emil Hallan, an artist contracted to paint a mural in the building where Vera lives, comes into her life and reawakens her youthful desires.

I couldn't help liking Vera and feeling sad for her until she allowed herself to break from the rigid social structure in which she was raised and reach for freedom. The setting was very well done. It was the 20's before WWII. Wealthy people lived to a code of existence that was founded in the restrictions of the Victorian Era. Vera felt the chains, but couldn't break free until ten years into her cold marriage.

The story is told in alternating chapters: first Vera in her marriage, then in her days at Vassar. Her special friend from Vassar, Bea Stillman, is an interesting character. From the chapters you can't tell whether she likes Vera for herself, or whether she's clinging to someone who might open doors for her later. Vera, of course, is not sure and that's part of her conflict.

I enjoyed the book including the mysteries at the end. If you like a character driven novel set in an interesting time period, I think you'll enjoy this book.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.