Saturday, June 5, 2010

She Walks in Beauty by Siri Mitchell

Miss Clara Carter is dismayed to learn that she will debut THIS season ... instead of next. Father and Aunt insist that she is to debut and win the heart (and money) of the DeVries heir. Aunt crams years of etiquette lessons into a few short months in order for Clara to be ready for her big debutante tea. As the season continues on, Clara realizes that she must choose between fulfilling her obligations to her family and following her heart and ultimate learn to love herself exactly as she is rather than how society expects her to be.

Siri Mitchell's She Walks in Beauty takes place during the exciting Gilded Age of New York City (1890s) after the Panic of 1873 and before the Crash of 1929. Mitchell describes the life of those living in "high society" ... and those trying to attain a position in high society ... which absolutely fascinated me!

I felt terrible for Clara as everything that she loved (her governess, her educational studies) were taken away and exchanged for the things (etiquette, dancing, corsettes!) that society dictated she learn. Aunt begins teaching her that nearly everything about herself and her appearance will not measure up against the other girls. She becomes lost in this new world ... and it's nearly painful to watch. By the end of the book, I went from thinking how neat and interesting this lifestyle was to feeling sorry for the women who had to endure such ridiculousness!

Mitchell also contrasts the extravagant lifestyles of many in NYC during this time with discussions of extreme poverty (43% of the city!), disgusting tenements where most of the immigrants lived, brutal working conditions and wages of the poor, and the crime and dirty politics that dictated how most business was conducted. It was an interesting, yet disturbing, contrast ... and I'm glad that Mitchell did not leave this aspect of life during this time out.

Ultimately, though, I appreciated the focus on the fact that God made each of us exactly how He intended and with an ultimate purpose for our lives.

I greatly enjoyed this book and look forward to reading more of Siri Mitchell in the future!

5 stars (out of 5)

I received a FREE copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my fair and honest review.

Side Note: I have never been a huge fan of historical fiction. I have enjoyed the last few novels of this genre that I have read. However, I think this book has pushed me over to a true fan of the genre!

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