Monday, July 25, 2011

Women, Stand Up for the Right to Work! Fired When Married!

This book completed with a bang.  Vreeland's Clara and Mr. Tiffany: A Novel finally brought some historical excitement into her tale in the last third of the book where, finally, the historical woman's right to work issue was addressed!

"It was we, the people; not we, the white male citizens; nor yet we, the male citizens; but we, the whole people, who formed the Union.... Men, their rights and nothing more; women, their rights and nothing less"  Susan B. Anthony

Our book meeting revealed that I was not the only person that felt that Vreeland may not have researched the common Victorian behavior in the early 1900's with respect to Clara's character.  We questioned such actions such as:
  • Would it be considered proper in a boarding house to have men come in and sit on your bed? 
  •      Is it OK to keep the company of men without an escort?
  •      Is it OK to retire to bed with a man in your bedroom?
  •      Is it OK to spend the weekend at a beech house with your male and female friends?
    Vreeland painted Clara as a very discrete and proper lady, which seemed to be at odds with some of her behavior in the novel.

    The end of the book concluded with some meaty topics that were presented beautifully.   I wish these topics such as the relationship between unions, business and woman's work rights with supporting historical stories would have been described throughout the book rather than concentrated at the end of the tale.

    The author did an awesome job describing the struggles of the immigrants.  Most everyone enjoyed the historical setting and the sprinkling of American history in the telling of the story.  We had an interesting discussion with respect to the male/female love relationship within the workplace which is as applicable then as it is now, as often married employees find themselves attracted to coworkers.

    Though not the best book of the year, it was an enjoyable book club read, and lead to a pleasant discussion.

    Tuesday, July 19, 2011

    Clara and Mr. Tiffany, Susan Vreeland

    We are going to meet on Saturday to discuss this book, and I wanted to solicit opinions.  I am looking forward to seeing the Tiffany exhibit at the museum.  Matter of fact, I think that it will be awesome, and I praise the book club member who came up with that idea!

    First, for anyone who needs to catch up, this is a fictional account of Clara Driscoll who was director of the Tiffany Studios' Women's Glass Cutting Department in New York City around the turn of the century. Clara and her team of women chose the colors and type of glass to be used in the studios' famous glass items.  Women did not have the right to join the union, and were fired if they married, making this era interesting to discuss.  This well written book is a comfortable trip into Clara's life.

    I am still reading this, but should be finished by Saturday.  So far, I am finding this OK, but not compelling to read.  Granted, it is historical fiction, but it isn't thick with plot, which is why it is a bit slow for me.  Pretty much, I'm seeing Clara seeing color and beauty in something, and then translating the art into glass as she matures one chapter at a time.  Her bohemian existence in a boarding house filled with other eccentrics and artists is interesting, but not compelling.  Discussion about women's issues will be interesting, but again, not page turning material.  The setting in the early 1900's is very attractive, but still, I'm not on the rail with this book (yet).

    So, what do you think?  I'll summarize comments if anyone wants to make any to share on Saturday.

    Later, K.

    Saturday, July 9, 2011

    Unrequited Love, Mystery, Criminals, Hangings, 19th century London

    My great expectations, that is to read a great classic, have been dashed in the reading of Great Expectations, written by Charles Dickens.  This has been a CHORE to read, though not without humorous moments, surprising twists and amusing characters. Turns out, this soap opera like book was written in a series of short chapters to be published in serial form.  This restricted the writing of the tale to installments of "roughly thirty-two pages of fifty lines per page.  ... To achieve so many cliffhangers, plots had to be large and complex with a lot of action" (CliffNotes, Great Expectations by Debra Bailey, 2000 Wiley Publishing, Inc.).  

    Additionally, the writing style is difficult to adjust to, and many sentences remain undecyphered to me, usually referring to some context of the era.  However, after the first few chapters, it becomes quite readable with the understanding that some sentences one just stumbles over, yada yada yada,... even with footnotes.

    I do not recommend this book for a book club read.  It isn't without value, heavens knows it has been parsed and analyzed ad nauseam.  It is quite worthy a read in a study of Dickens, London in 1860, and the social problems of this time.  Many students are strong armed into reading this.  I'm sure they learned something; I did.  The setting is magnificent, and Charles Dickens spins a good tale. The bottom line for me was that it was interesting, but it just wasn't fun.  Perhaps if I was living in 1860 England, I would be first in line to buy the magazine containing the next chapter.  After all, I do like a good serial story (Dallas, Weeds, Breaking Bad, Dark Shadows, to name a few old and new). Alas, it is 2011, this isn't my language, and when put into a chapter/novel format, the connections between the characters are unbelievable.

    I would recommend watching the movie.  If you do want to read the book, it is available on-line for free at the Gutenberg Project.  I own the Penguin Classics edition, and would rather curl up with a book, carry it, eat lunch over it, and scribble notes than read it on-line.

    What did you think of this book?  I'm now off onto the book club discussion book, Clara and Mr. Tiffany: A Novel.  Happy reading!  K.