Clara and Mr. Tiffany

Clara and Mr. Tiffany
by Susan Vreeland
2011 / 448 pages
narrated by Kimberly Farr / 15h.15m
rating – 4 (and that’s generous)

As far as I was concerned this book was really,  really 100% STUPID until the second half when something (maybe a glimmer of history?) caught my attention.   I wouldn’t have bothered even looking at the book if it hadn’t been a reading group selection.  And I certainly wouldn’t have bothered after the romance started to become a theme, becasue the first third is taken up with being jilted and falling in love and sex.  The history was a kind of background type setting for this – non-dynamic – even Mr. Tiffany was flat (I suppose that’s an accomplishment because the man was quite a character.)

Besides that (as if that weren’t bad enough),  the story line is trite (it could have been presented a bit differently, I’m sure), and the metaphors and adjectives are clichéd.  When  Vreeland does throw in an interesting word it feels out of place.  I understand she’s trying for lyrical to get to the aesthetics,  but it flops.   I love well written historical fiction but perhaps the emphasis is getting to be more and more on the well- written part.

Finally,  I really had no idea how much of the book was historical and how much not.  As far as I could tell it was mostly  fiction,  except that the historical Clara Driscoll was quite talented and worked as a designer and director at Tiffany’s in a day when women were generally restricted to wife-and-mommy roles.  Additionally,  immigrant-labor was abundant in NY at the turn of the century.   I wonder how much of this Clara wrote home about –  (I suspect very little.)  I’m sure there is a great deal of information on the creation of stained glass – I’m not that interested.  This means most of the book was fiction.

After Clara is on her own and in charge of the Tiffany lamp division the history might as well have come from a Wiki entry but the interactions between the women characters came more to life. And the issue of immigration was touched on very lightly.   Now it was only 50% stupid.
The background is available at Wiki – Clara 
and the book by Martin Eidelberg and Nina Gray: (review in NY Times)
“A New Light on Tiffany”

Final word –  I’d love to read the Eidelberg/Gray book but it’s kind of pricey.  Besides,   I’m not a big fan of Tiffany lamps – the originals are probably quite beautiful and took a tremendous talent to design and create,  but all the copies have cheapened the art.

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