Monday, January 24, 2011

Clara and Mr. Tiffany

Susan Vreeland tells a fictionalized story of Clara Driscoll - the woman proported to be an instrumental part in designing the Tiffany Lamps.  The story takes place during the turn of the century in New York City - Vreeland does a wonderful job of transporting the reader to that time period, so much so that the place becomes a character unto itself.  I loved Clara - she was a gutsy woman in a time when that wasn't very popular.  I was rooting for her from the first page.

My only negative is that I felt that she got a tad bogged down in the details of stained glass window making - I found myself glazing over these parts.  Overall it was a great story - made even better because it was based on an actual person!!!

From Publishers Weekly

Vreeland (Luncheon of the Boating Party) again excavates the life behind a famous artistic creation--in this case the Tiffany leaded-glass lamp, the brainchild not of Louis Comfort Tiffany but his glass studio manager, Clara Driscoll. Tiffany staffs his studio with female artisans--a decision that protects him from strikes by the all-male union--but refuses to employ women who are married. Lucky for him, Clara's romantic misfortunes--her husband's death, the disappearance of another suitor--insure that she can continue to craft the jewel-toned glass windows and lamps that catch both her eye and her imagination. Behind the scenes she makes her mark as an artist and champion of her workers, while living in an eclectic Irving Place boarding house populated by actors and artists. Vreeland ably captures Gilded Age New York and its atmosphere--robber barons, sweatshops, colorful characters, ateliers--but her preoccupation with the larger historical story comes at the expense of Clara, whose arc, while considered and nicely told, reflects the times too closely in its standard-issue woman-behind-the-man scenario. (Jan.) (c)
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From Booklist

*Starred Review* The first thing to be said about a Vreeland novel is that the reader learns a lot from it, but the joy and delight of a Vreeland novel is that the knowledge gleaned from her beautifully articulate pages is not forced on you, not delivered as if from a podium. Welcome here to the world of Clara Driscoll, whom Vreeland has brought to light from the archives of Tiffany Glass Company to establish what is most probably her rightful place in the history of American decorative arts. This deep-reaching novel is based on the likelihood that Clara conceived the famous Tiffany leaded-glass lamp shade, which has come down from the early years of the twentieth century as the epitome of the creativity in glass for which the Tiffany outfit was known. Clara worked in the women’s studio for founder Louis Tiffany himself and struggled against the anti-female bias of the company—like that of any other company of the time, for that matter—to position herself as a first-rate artisan in her boss’ eyes. Plus, Vreeland takes Clara out of the workplace to give her a personal life quite suitable for not only the time but also her strong personality. There’s no excuse for any reader of high-quality literary fiction to let this novel pass by. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Vreeland will appear as a panelist at the ALA/ERT/Booklist Author Forum at ALA’s Midwinter Conference in January, and librarian interest will be supercharged by that event. --Brad Hooper

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