Monday, February 20, 2012

Review: Clara and Mr. Tiffany

This novel is a fictionalization of the life of Clara Driscoll, the head of the women's division at Tiffany Studios. The novel looks at a broad swath of Clara's life, from the point at which she develops the design for the iconic Tiffany lamp, through her career with the company. Much of the book is about Clara's relationship to her artwork. Glass is her life, many will tell her to a fault. So much work means little time for relationships, and Clara always seems to put work ahead of love. Tiffany Studios had a policy excluding married women, and after a brief and devastating marriage Clara finds it hard to trust another relationship. Gender issues also shape Clara's work life, as the men's department at Tiffany is constantly trying to exert its superiority over the women, and desperately wants to see the women's division closed.

There were definitely things I enjoyed about this book. I loved reading about how Tiffany glass is made, and I had no idea that women were so involved in its production. It was also interesting to get a glimpse of New York City at the turn of the century.

That said, there were also problems. I began to tire of Clara's constant discussion of the meaning of art in her life. It becomes tiresomely repetitive. I also found the book's format distracting. The book is divided into a number of sections that jump across the decades, each section consisting of only a few chapters. I felt like I was always reorienting myself to a different point in Clara's life.

Susan Vreeland, Clara and Mr. Tiffany (Random House, 2011) ISBN: 1400068169 

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