“I nearly missed that card from the post office, stuck up as it was against the side of the mail slot. Just imagine. Of such little accidents is history made.” Beatriz Williams, THE SECRET LIFE OF VIOLET GRANT
Manhattan, 1964. Vivian Schuyler, newly graduated from Bryn Mawr College, has recently defied the privilege of her storied old Fifth Avenue family to do the unthinkable for a budding Kennedy-era socialite: break into the Mad Men world of razor-stylish Metropolitan magazine. But when she receives a bulky overseas parcel in the mail, the unexpected contents draw her inexorably back into her family’s past, and the hushed-over crime passionnel of an aunt she never knew, whose existence has been wiped from the record of history.
Berlin, 1914. Violet Schuyler Grant endures her marriage to the philandering and decades-older scientist Dr. Walter Grant for one reason: for all his faults, he provides the necessary support to her liminal position as a young American female physicist in prewar Germany. The arrival of Dr. Grant’s magnetic former student at the beginning of Europe’s fateful summer interrupts this delicate détente. Lionel Richardson, a captain in the British Army, challenges Violet to escape her husband’s perverse hold, and as the world edges into war and Lionel’s shocking true motives become evident, Violet is tempted to take the ultimate step to set herself free and seek a life of her own conviction with a man whose cause is as audacious as her own.
As the iridescent and fractured Vivian digs deeper into her aunt’s past and the mystery of her ultimate fate, Violet’s story of determination and desire unfolds, shedding light on the darkness of her years abroad . . . and teaching Vivian to reach forward with grace for the ambitious future––and the love––she wants most.
One hears so much about “voice” in fiction, and rarely is the power of voice more clear as it is in the work of Beatriz Williams. Yes, the plot is engrossing, the story fascinating, and the setting luminous, but the real draw of Williams’ novel is that feisty, zingy, pop-an-olive-into-your-mouth-from-your-martini-while-giving-the-gossip voice of the narrator, Vivian Schuyler. The reader will know after approximately 1.6 pages with Vivian that they will devour the next 400+ pages just to lean a little closer and hear Vivian deliver this tale.
THE SECRET LIFE OF VIOLET GRANT begins in Manhattan, but takes the reader on a journey across the world, when Vivian seeks to find out what happened to her aunt Violet, who disappeared with her lover after her husband was murdered. In Williams’ capable hands, even basement laboratories and physics become sexy, and as the novel progresses it develops into quite a nail-biting thriller. The story lines in 1964 and in 1914 are every bit as engrossing as the other, and the suspense in both love and war make the book un-put-downable.
Readers of Williams’ fabulous A HUNDRED SUMMERS will get a thrill, as family stories intersect here, and will be just as pleased with the finish of this book as they were with the last. Go and purchase a copy of THE SECRET LIFE OF VIOLET GRANT immediately, and place it on the top of your beach bag pile. You will not be sorry.