Monday, December 31, 2012

Book 39: Clara and Mr. Tiffany by Susan Vreeland

This is yet another recommendation from my sister, one that combines my love of historical fiction with my love of Tiffany glass.  I had no idea that until recently it was thought that Louis Comfort Tiffany designed all of his famous glassworks.  I had always assumed that he had other people designing for him and that he took credit, like many before have done.  Anyways, in this case it has recently come to light that a woman named Clara Driscoll was responsible for many of the most famous Tiffany glass designs.  Vreeland perused the many letters that remain of Driscoll’s and realized that this woman stood apart from many others of her time. 

The novel begins with Clara returning to work at Tiffany’s after her husband’s death.  She was forced to leave the company and the work that she loved because of Tiffany’s policy against employing unmarried women.  This rule becomes a driving force in her relationships with men.  While she does find a few that she considers she always debates the merits of the relationship against the joy she gets from her profession. 

As for her work, Clara love designing and working on the beautiful glass pieces that she knows her department will not get credit for.  She is constantly fighting for her and her girls—to get equal pay, better working conditions, commissions, etc.  She meets resistance in the forms of male unions that won’t allow women to join, accountants, and Mr. Tiffany himself with whom she has a special, but professional bond.

While I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I hoped, it was still pretty interesting.  I felt that the relationship between Clara and Mr. Tiffany was well written, but the rest of the characters suffered.  Vreeland provided enough details to help understand the time, place, and frustrations of the time.  This ultimately created a nice diversion, but not a novel that I will seek out again.

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