Period Piece

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Good morning everyone!

Since we’re closing out on the first full week of summer, with many more beach trips and days spent poolside ahead of us, I thought I’d recommend a few books that are great to read while stretched out in the sun. 

It’s no secret that my favorite time period in history has to be the twentieth century. Every decade was so different from the last, with a completely different culture and set of values and style that was both related to and not from the time period before. I’m a bit of a history buff, too, so adding to my arsenal of random historical knowledge never hurts. 

Even if you’re not super into that particular field of study, each of these books is so captivating and beautifully written that I’m sure at least one of these books will tickle your fancy. ๐Ÿ˜› So, without further ado, the books

What the Lady Wants by Renรฉe Rosen

This might just be my favorite out of the bunch. It takes place in the gilded era of Chicago, post-fire and World’s Fair, following the lives of a well-known socialite named Delia Spencer and the department store tycoon Marshall Fields. This is one of those novels thats based in fact, but the author does take some creative liberty with the storytelling, and it’s one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. That time period is beautiful as it is, and the descriptions of the new Chicago and the dresses they wore and the lives they led paint a very vivid picture of time long past. That, combined with the characters that are so complex and human and heartbreaking, made for a novel that I could not put it down. The romance in this book manifests itself between multiple couples in ways you might not expect, and yet each love story is as cherished as the last, even if it’s not the swept-off-your-feet romantic kind. I cannot say enough good things about this book. Please. Go out and get yourself a copy!

Black Rabbit Hall by Eve Chase

This novel is a very close second to What the Lady Wants. Rather than early 20th-century Chicago, this book takes place in tandem in the present-day and in the mid 1960’s, both geographically in the same spot in England. It flips between the present day and the decades prior, slowly unraveling a story that’ll keep you guessing until the very last page at what actually happened. The premise is rather simple for the complicated story it leads up to: in the present day, a woman named Lorna and her fiancรฉ are looking for a wedding venue and come upon this old manor house in Cornwall, slowly falling into disrepair, and she feels this instant connection and can’t figure out why. A few decades earlier, a quaint English family sets out for their annual summer vacation to their house in the country: Black Rabbit Hall. At first the two stories seem unrelated, but the more the stories twist and twine together, the more secrets that are revealed, the more conclusions you come to and think you know, only to have them proven completely wrong–the more you can’t stop reading! I think I finished this book in…three days, maybe? I read it over spring break and have been trying to get everyone I know to read it since. Please do!

Be Frank with Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson

So this particular novel is not technically a period piece since it does take place in the present day, but the main character, a little kid named Frank, pretends like he lives in Sinatra’s world of the American 1930s and ’40s, so I’m going to go ahead and count it. While not as deep as the first two books I mentioned, this one is cute and sweet, making it a good brain candy kind of novel. Frank is the son of a famous author named Mimi, who is broke because of some bad investments and needs to write another bestseller in order to save herself and her son from financial destitution. She tells her publisher that in order for her to get this book done, she needs a full-time assistant. Enter Alice Whitely, who becomes Franks companion throughout the novel, learning at first to tolerate and then to love his quirks, like his Prohibition-era wardrobe and fondness for old movies. The plot is neither here nor there, but the characters, like I said, are really what make this book great. 

The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin

I feel like I’m cheating a little bit with this one since I haven’t quite finished yet, but I couldn’t not put it on this list. Set in the 1950s through ’70s in New York City, the book follows a group of socialites and their relationship with literary legend Truman Capote. This is another book where it’s told from two points of view, although this time it’s all in relation to a scandal–and that’s the catch of the book. You know right off the bat that there’s been a scandal, and that it’s destroyed the life (or lives) of the “Swans”, the famed socialites of that time, but you don’t know exactly what happened. The rest of the book is spent flipping back and forth, before and after, painting a complete picture of all of the events that took place. The writing in this book is phenomenal, almost poetic, and I’m really looking forward to finishing it. Maybe you’ll join me? ๐Ÿ˜‰

Dollface by Renรฉe Rosen 

This is by the same author as What the Lady Wants, and while it’s still a wonderful book, it’s not quite on the same level as the other one. Again, this book takes place in Chicago, but follows a very different crowd: rather than the conservative Edwardian socialites, this book focuses on new age flappers and the mobsters of the Prohibition era. Vera, the main character, falls for men of the two different rival gangs of Chicago: the North Side and the South Side. It follows her transformation from a poor stockyards gal to a glamorous flapper married to one of the most notorious mobsters of the time. It’s not all glitz and glamor, though, and the depth of a seemingly surface-level book might surprise you–it definitely did for me! 

That’s all the books I have for you today–I’m sure there will be at least a few more I read this summer ;). Let me know what you’re reading, and your thoughts on any of the books above–I’d love to hear all about it! ๐Ÿ˜€

-Grace 

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