Rare Objects by Kathleen Tessaro
Returning to historical fiction in a new way, set in depression-era Boston, focused on a first-generation Irish immigrant girl and her struggling to find a place in the rapidly changing landscape. Please read on for my review of this title from Kathleen Tessaro
Unless you are familiar with the layers of prejudice, the plight of the Irish immigrants followed a harsh path to acceptance. Something hard to believe considering the apparent reverence for all things Irish in Boston. But it was not always easy: poverty, crowded conditions, less than welcoming businesses and landlords, overcoming lack of opportunity to try to survive. When one is a young woman with a rebellious streak and the ability to rush into situations, the retributions and reactions are harsh.
Kathleen Tessaro uses the story of Maeve, a young woman chafing at the ‘girls don’t’ labels, and unwilling to rein in her love for excitement, danger and gin, she’s headed down a dangerous path. Unfortunately, her determination to self-direct her life and ignore the societal constraints that limit her outlook as both a woman and an immigrant, her mistakes and choices lead her to a stay in a psychiatric hospital. And here is where the story takes a darker and more dangerous twist for Maeve.
Also in the hospital is Diana – and upper class girl with similar outbursts of bad choices and foolhardy mistakes, and the two bond over their attitudes and desires to direct their own lives and amusements. Together these two are dangers to themselves and rail against their position in society as they seek to overcome the liabilities of rebelliousness and their sex.
Overall, the story is gripping and foreshadows plenty of grief in their lives from their choices. While you can’t help but be empathetic for Maeve’s frustrations and desires, and see that Diana also shares those issues, you also know that some of their decisions will lead to trouble. The lines in society to define their places are far more rigid and defined than the actual differences in these two young women, and the reaction to a mere chit of a girl, Irish or not, daring to step out beyond those constraints highlights the divisions in society at the time, and provides an interesting lesson in the struggle to be heard.
As a fan of historical fiction, the story was gripping – character driven and solidly placing the characters in their time as it presented the challenges, expectations and struggles of the time.
Title: Rare Objects
Author: Kathleen Tessaro
Genre: American, Historical Romance, Jazz Age
Published by: Harper Collins
Published on: 12 April, 2016
Source: Publisher Via Edelweiss
Audio Length: 13 Hours: 34 minutes
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About the Book:
Maeve Fanning is a first generation Irish immigrant, born and raised among the poor, industrious Italian families of Boston’s North End by her widowed mother. Clever, capable, and as headstrong as her red hair suggests, she’s determined to better herself despite the overwhelming hardships of the Great Depression.
However, Maeve also has a dangerous fondness for strange men and bootleg gin—a rebellious appetite that soon finds her spiraling downward, leading a double life. When the strain proves too much, Maeve becomes an unwilling patient in a psychiatric hospital, where she strikes up a friendship with an enigmatic young woman, who, like Maeve, is unable or unwilling to control her un-lady-like desire for freedom.
Once out, Maeve faces starting over again. Armed with a bottle of bleach and a few white lies, she lands a job at an eccentric antiques shop catering to Boston’s wealthiest and most peculiar collectors. Run by an elusive English archeologist, the shop is a haven of the obscure and incredible, providing rare artifacts as well as unique access to the world of America’s social elite. While delivering a purchase to the wealthy Van der Laar family, Maeve is introduced to beautiful socialite Diana Van der Laar—only to discover she’s the young woman from the hospital.
Reunited with the charming but increasingly unstable Diana and pursued by her attractive brother James, Mae becomes more and more entwined with the Van der Laar family—a connection that pulls her into a world of moral ambiguity and deceit, and ultimately betrayal. Bewitched by their wealth and desperate to leave her past behind, Maeve is forced to unearth her true values and discover how far she’ll to go to reinvent herself.
A copy of this title was provided via Publisher Via Edelweiss for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges: