Monday, 4 July 2016

The Gilded Years

There once was a lady from Boston
Her story was told, but not often
Along came wise Karin
Who said "This needs sharing!"
A book for you to get lost in.

The Gilded Years

The Gilded Years

My apologies for the simple approach in this limerick: I have been wanting to use the classic "there once was" structure and this book afforded me the possibility. Also, full disclosure, Ocean and I are trying to find a business use for the situation in which Sharon is Karen and this was too good a chance not to use that rhyming ploy as well.

There is so much in this book - the impressive level of research is just one element to delight my nerdy little heart. The historical setting: in the 1890s some universities had started admitting African-American students, albeit generally one at a time. Vassar was not amongst these, I'm sad to report. But of course, what is race, really, in a body made up of who knows what mixes of people. (That may be my own typical anarchical view of life).

The character of Lottie Taylor is written to perfection, the reader can't help but get caught up in her spirit and friendship, feeling the whole time as the characters do that she is highly flawed but undeniably likable. She doesn't drop a beat throughout the book.

Karin also introduces the complexity of social views in America at the time. We know about racial views in the south, but she adds the contrast between north-east and west. The frontier-lands, as they were, were the most forward thinking of the time in most things social (drinking bans aside). I confess some ongoing frustration at the common (though not universal) north-eastern belief that there is "us" and then the rest of the country trailing behind. The social structures of NY and its environs, at the turn of the century, were especially strict, and I do believe that if women's lib had been left to these areas we would be wondering about it still today. Thank you Wyoming for leading the charge on that particular note (first female justice of the peace and, of course, first state to grant women's right to vote).

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