19 April 2016

Today's Read: Rare Objects of Kathleen Tessaro

Rare Objects by Kathleen TessaroWhat if you had trouble molding your personality, dreams, and passions to fit society's expectations? Maeve Fanning, a first-generation Irish girl living in North Boston during the Depression, would learn firsthand the devastating price of failing to tamp down her wildness.

Looking back is a dangerous thing. I've spent much of my time studying other ages, searching out the treasures of ancient worlds, but I've always found it best to move forward, eyes front, in one's own life. Hindsight casts a harsh, unforgiving light, and histories too tender and raw are stripped bare of the thousand shadowy self-deceptions that few of us can afford to see ourselves without.
Rare Objects by Kathleen Tessaro (Harper, 2016, prologue; uncorrected proofs)

Quick Facts
  • Setting: 1930s; Boston area; New York City
  • Circumstances: After leaving home, Maeve has a rocky start in New York, eventually ending up being committed to a home for the mentally unstable. Returning to her mother's Boston apartment, Maeve reinvents herself as "May," landing a job at a shady antiques shop. When one of her socialite clients, Diana, turns out to have been a fellow inmate at the asylum, the two women bond over their secret shared experience. But the more May is lured into the world of the rich and powerful, the more her proper, well-bred facade begins to crack. How long can May pretend to be who she isn't?
  • Characters: Maeve/May, an Irish woman who tries to rein in her wild side; Diana, a frenemy and bad influence; James, Diana's brother and one of May's lovers; May's mother, bosses, other boyfriends, clients, and acquaintances
  • Themes: alcoholism, friendship, women's issues, betrayal, secrets, prejudice, business ethics (or lack thereof), the Depression, mother-daughter relationships
  • Genre: historical fiction
  • General thoughts: The first few chapters have drawn me in to Maeve's story and her struggle to balance her passions with her ambition and society's expectations
  • Reviews—The Good: Reviews have been fairly positive, mentioning Tessaro's focus on the restrictions women faced in the 1930s. Interesting aspects of the plot involve Prohibition, questionable business dealings, class differences, and secrets.
  • Reviews—The Not So Good: At the same time, reviewers have mentioned that the first part of the novel is better than the slower-paced last part. Kirkus complained that there was too much telling and not enough showing. And at least one reviewer noted that Tessaro didn't break new ground with this story.
  • Recommendations: So far, I'm interested in Maeve/May's journey toward independence and her desire to better herself. Based on the first third of the novel, I can recommend the book to fans of Kathleen Tassaro (The Perfume Collector) and anyone interested in the early 1930s. We'll see if I'm still on board as the story progresses.


rhapsodyinbooks 4/19/16, 7:56 AM  

I generally can't stand reading (book after book!) about the rich!

bermudaonion 4/19/16, 8:44 AM  

I love that time period so I'd give this one a try for sure.

Kathy Martin 4/19/16, 8:45 AM  

This sounds like a fascinating story. My teaser this week comes from the first book in an urban fantasy series I recently discovered - Kindling the Moon by Jenn Bennett. Happy reading!

JoAnn 4/19/16, 9:19 AM  

I'll be curious to hear your final opinion, but the positive reaction to the first few chapters and a gorgeous cover have piqued my interest.

Daryl 4/19/16, 9:56 AM  

i was once a huge fan of historical fiction .. now, not so much but i am curious to hear what you gave to say when you've finished it

Laurel-Rain Snow 4/19/16, 10:29 AM  

The characters sound appealing to me, with their issues and their struggles. Thanks for sharing...and enjoy. Here's mine: “TERRIBLE VIRTUE”

Catherine @ Book Club Librarian 4/19/16, 10:51 AM  

I'd give this one a go because I'm interested in the plot and story line.

Unknown 4/19/16, 10:56 AM  

I don't know if I'd keep reading. The story sounds intriguing - I've read another historical where that was the case with a woman in the family, put there to hide away and pretend she didn't exist, merely because she wanted things her parents did not approve of - and it makes me wonder if that was the case here as well.

Margot 4/19/16, 11:09 AM  

I like the sound of this story as well as the time period. I want more.

Unknown 4/19/16, 12:02 PM  

I'd like to know why Maeve is sent to a home for the mentally unstable. Unfortunately, I think this was more common than we'd like to think for women in that era, including women who were perfectly stable but didn't behave in ways thought suitable at the time. I'm interested in how the author explores Maeve's battles against society's expectations.

Anonymous,  4/19/16, 3:14 PM  

That period of time is fascinating, I would read this.

Unknown 4/19/16, 4:00 PM  

nice writing, but I'm not sure it would keep my interest

Kailana 4/19/16, 4:20 PM  

'What if you had trouble molding your personality, dreams, and passions to fit society's expectations?' <-- Pretty sure that is me anyway, just in 2016. lol

Laura 4/19/16, 4:28 PM  

I haven't read much in this time period. It sounds interesting. Hope you're enjoying it!

Cleopatra Loves Books 4/19/16, 4:28 PM  

This is just the sort of historical fiction I enjoy - one that looks at society's expectations and how personalities had to be moulded to fit them - I also like the line about hindsight, so very true!

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea 4/19/16, 8:48 PM  

I don't read much historical fiction but, curious about this one. Thanks for sharing.

Unknown 4/20/16, 7:27 AM  

This one was already on my TBR list so this just whet my appetite even more. Love the writing style.

Laurie C 4/20/16, 8:17 AM  

Enough! I'm boycotting all books with women in ball gowns on the covers! ;)

Eustacia Tan 4/20/16, 8:47 AM  

Ooooh, this one sounds interesting, especially the bonding over the asylum!

Literary Feline 4/20/16, 10:40 AM  

I love the opening quote you shared! It drew me right in and now I'm curious to go on. This does sound like a good book besides that too. Such an interesting time period. I hope you continue to enjoy it!

(Diane) bookchickdi 4/21/16, 7:55 PM  

I think I may like this one and the cover is so striking.

Nise' 4/21/16, 8:21 PM  

After reading the blurb, I brought this book home and look forward to seeing if it grabs my attention.

Maria Behar 4/22/16, 1:11 AM  

I prefer my historical fiction to be heavily laced with romance, but this one does sound very interesting! That opening is really fascinating, and I love the prose style. So I might very well give this one a try! Thanks for sharing!

Also, thanks for coming by and commenting on my Tuesday Intros post!! :)

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