Date: May 31st 2016
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: Publisher via She Reads Network
The Bronx, 1891. Virginia Loftin knows what she wants most: to become a celebrated novelist despite her gender, and to marry Charlie, her best friend, neighbor and first love. Yet when Charlie proposes to another woman, Ginny is devastated; shutting out her family, she holes up and obsessively rewrites how their story should have gone.
Though Ginny works with newfound intensity, success eludes her—until she attends a salon hosted in her brother’s handsome author friend John’s Fifth Avenue mansion. Amongst painters, musicians, actors, and writers, Ginny returns to herself, even blooming under John’s increasingly romantic attentions. Just as she has begun to forget Charlie, however, he throws himself back into her path, and Ginny finds herself torn between a lifetime’s worth of complicated feelings and a budding relationship with a man who seems almost too good to be true.
The Fifth Avenue Artists Society depicts life at end of the nineteenth century - where it was difficult for women to break into a men oriented world in terms of the arts. Alevia the musician of the family and to some extent Virginia - the writer, question in themselves whether it is better to remain single than risk a marriage where art must take a back seat. Both are gifted and do not want to see it lost.
As well as Alevia and Virginia there is Franklin their brother an artist and Bess who is a maker of rather flamboyant hats. There mother lives with them and their father has died. Making ends meet is difficult.
Franklin is bringing home money that seems a little out of keeping with his work and is often away on business. He is in love with Lydia, who is the sister of Tom - another author who hangs out at the Society. Some things just feel not quite right at the Society where many artists gather in the home of the Hoppers on Fifth Avenue to share their work.
It seems idyllic but is it really? As the story unfolds we see it for what it really is.
The story is told from Virginia's point of view, so we really only see things through her eyes. The family goes through many trials and hardships. The bonds of love are severely challenged and one member of the family puts all the others livelihoods in jeopardy. While we have Virginia's viewpoint it is difficult not to take into account the feelings of the rest of the family. There is such a sense of loss and betrayal, such a price they all had to pay.
The Fifth Avenue Artists Society is well written although a little slow paced in parts. I found the second half of the book was more intriguing and engaging as some twists and turns took place.
This book is a recommendation from the Summer Book Club Selections 2016 at She Reads. You can read other thoughts and reviews there.