Friday, April 15, 2016

Book Review - Rare Objects by Kathleen Tessaro

Book Synopsis
In Depression-era Boston, a city divided by privilege and poverty, two unlikely friends are bound by a dangerous secret. . . .

Maeve Fanning, a first generation Irish immigrant, was born and raised among the poor, industrious Italian families of Boston’s North End by her widowed mother. Clever, capable, and headstrong, Maeve is determined to better herself despite the hardships of the Great Depression. However, she also has a dangerous fondness for strange men and bootleg gin—a rebellious appetite for experience that soon finds her spiraling downward in New York City. When the strain proves too much, Maeve becomes an involuntary patient in a remote psychiatric hospital, where she strikes up a friendship with an enigmatic young woman, who, like Maeve, is unable or unwilling to control her unladylike desire for freedom.

After her release, Maeve returns to Boston to start over again, landing a job at an antiques shop catering to the city’s wealthiest and most peculiar collectors. Run by an elusive English archeologist, the shop is a haven for the obscure and incredible, supplying one-of-a-kind artifacts to its customers while providing Maeve with unique access into the world of New England’s social elite. While delivering a purchase to a wealthy family, Maeve is introduced to beautiful socialite Diana Van der Laar—only to discover she’s the same young woman from the hospital.

Reunited with the charming but increasingly unstable Diana and pursued by her attractive brother James, Maeve becomes more and more entwined with the Van der Laar family—a connection that pulls her into a world of moral ambiguity and deceit. Bewitched by their wealth and desperate to leave her past behind, Maeve is forced to unearth her true values and discover just how far she’s willing to go to reinvent herself.

A rich, universal story of ambition, transformation, desire, and betrayal, Rare Objects is acclaimed writer Kathleen Tessaro’s finest work to date.
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My Review

Opening Rare Objects is like entering another world.  This exceptionally engrossing novel will transport you to Boston in the 1930's.  You will meet Maeve Fanning, who aspires to a life beyond her working class background, and who reinvents herself among the social elite in order to pursue a new future.

I love historical fiction and found the setting and time period of this book unique and interesting.  I rarely seem to find historical fiction set during the Depression Era.  

Maeve is an unusual character.  I did not always like her, but I always found her interesting, and I kept reading to see what would happen next, especially as she began work at the antiques shop and met Diana again.  Maeve's life in two worlds was fascinating.   I felt a bit of anxiety at times, worrying about Maeve and her double life.  As Maeve declares early in the novel:  "... if you can convince others, there's a chance that someday you might just be able to convince yourself" (p. xiii).

As a lifelong fan of all things vintage and antique, and a vintage seller, I especially loved the details of the antique shop, with the rare objects there, and the map with pins detailing the travels of the shop's mysterious owner.

The writing is beautiful.   I loved this passage, describing the antique shop, so much that I have to share it with you:

"There was a sense of solemnity and guardianship, like being in a library or a church.  And like a church, the shop had a muted, far-removed quality, as if it were somehow both part of and yet simultaneously annexed from the present day.  The essence of aged wood, silver polish, furniture oil, the infintesimal dust of other lives and other countries, hung in the air.  I could feel its weight around me, and its flavor lingered on my tongue.  Time tasted musty, metallic, and faintly exotic.  

Almost everywhere else, time was an enemy, the thief that rendered food rotten, dulled the bloom of youth, made fashions passe.  But here it was the precious ingredient that transformed an ordinary object into a valuable artifact - from paintings to thimbles" (p. 67).

The narrative of this story is so dense and detailed, but it moves quickly along, thanks to multi-faceted characters and well written dialogue.

Rare Objects is a rare book.  I cannot recommend it highly enough.
Author Bio

Kathleen Tessaro is the author of Elegance, Innocence, The Flirt, and The Debutante. She lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with her husband and son.

Find out more about Kathleen at her website and connect with her on Facebook.

I received this book from TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.

5 comments:

Heather J @ TLC Book Tours said...

This era is one that I always enjoy reading about but don't do nearly often enough. What a time of upheaval and change in society!

Thanks for being a part of the tour.

Birdhouse Books said...

Heather, I agree about this time period -- well stated.

I am hoping that the author decides to continue this story in another book. I REALLY loved this one.

Trish

trish said...

I love vintage things as well, so I'd probably devour it the same way you did!

Letty B. said...

Sounds like a great book. Also a fan of vintage things, so I'll be adding to my list. Love the cover, too!!

Birdhouse Books said...

Thanks for stopping by! I hope you enjoy this book as much as I did. I have recommended it to friends who love antiques and reading.