I fell in love with Susan Vreeland’s work when I first read Hyacinth Blue. With Clara and Mr. Tiffany, Ms. Vreeland has undoubtedly published her finest work. Set in the late 19th century, Clara Driscoll is a young woman who has dedicated her life to art. She is privileged to work in the studios of Louis Comfort Tiffany, designing his famous glass lamp shades in New York City. But life in this era placed many restrictions upon women. In order to work for Mr. Tiffany, she musn’t marry – and as outrageous as that might seem to a 21st century reader, she’s actually lucky to have a position at all. Tiffany is the only decorative arts firm that employs women period.
Vreeland is known for centering her novels around art. I love how she details the process of making the lamps with their glass shades featuring items in nature – wisteria, cherry blossoms, and dragonflies. It makes the reader eager to view and even take part in the creation process of these amazing works of art.
Although this is a work of historical fiction, Clara Driscoll did exist, and the challenges she faced during her time at Tiffany’s were very real. Vreeland was able to learn about Clara through her own letters, which have survived, even though much of Louis Comfort Tiffany’s documents did not. I loved this book. The author was able to combine three things that I dearly love in a novel – history, art and a wonderful story. I highly recommend this one.
4 1/2 stars (out of 5)
Published in 2012