Sunday, June 8, 2014

The Secret Life of Violet Grant by Beatriz Williams

The Secret Life of Violet GrantI am thoroughly impressed with this novel. Never having read this author before, I didn't really know what to expect. I began completely engrossed in this story and absolutely enamored with the 60s' heroine. She's so very witty, sarcastic, funny, honest. What's not to love about her? I can't remember the last time I was so taken by a narrator.

The story goes back and forth between her, Vivian, and the past--pre WWI--to a scientist spurned by her own well-to-do American family. The 60' story mostly stays in NYC and revolves around a reporter, a romance with surprising twists and turns, a best friend, a rather snobby but utterly amusing family...and of course, the digging up of Violet Grant's tale.

Violet's tale takes us from English college in the early 1900s to Germany and parties with scientists and spies and tensions pre WWI in Europe. There's a lot of exciting things going on during her tale, though much of it is the background to her tumultuous relationship with her sexually perverted husband. I had a difficult time with this heroine. She's weak, blind, manipulated, doesn't see what's right in front of her. I wish her....dumbness in what is otherwise an extremely intelligent woman had been better explained. That has to be my only complaint about this novel. Though in her defense, she was a woman at a college, in a profession, in which women were not really accepted yet. At first, I can understand her being taken with the professor, who believes in her (so he says), and suffrage. But after being called child so many times...I was amazed she didn't see what I saw.

But moving on... Even Albert Einstein makes an appearance in this book!

Though a long novel, it's so well written and engaging, you won't even notice the length. I was just completely immerse and didn't want to put it down. You would expect, that due to the switching narratives, that it would be jarring, but it wasn't hard to realize instantly who was speaking and when. Extremely well done. And oooh, I love that it has an ending you don't see coming from page five. So rare nowadays. Totally shocked me! And delightfully so!

I'll be reading more of this author.

I received this via Edelweiss.


  1. I loved this book too, and agree that Vivian was a fabulous character. I liked how she talked directly to the reader now and again, too. That's a technique that can have mixed results, but in this case, it worked just because she was so witty.

    1. Did you read her other one, A Hundred Summers? Debating buying it on Kindle. I passed it over when it first came out. The blurb just didn't sound that interesting to me, but after reading this one, I'm thinking of it. And completely agree with you. Sometimes, usually, that talking to the reader thing backfires. Worked perfectly here.

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    3. Oops, posted that too soon, let me try again.

      I haven't read A Hundred Summers yet (I agree the premise didn't sound quite as compelling) but also enjoyed her first book, Overseas. The heroine of that one doesn't have the same spark as Vivian does, but she's smart and interesting, and the hero is pretty hot, LOL. I also liked the witty dialogue, and the writing was just as smooth. It's a time-travel story so it requires some suspension of disbelief. You can also tell how interested the author is in the WWI period. There was a lot of detail about society at the time.