As preparations for the 1893 World’s Fair set Chicago and the nation on fire, Louis Tiffany—heir to the exclusive Fifth Avenue jewelry empire—seizes the opportunity to unveil his state-of-the-art, stained glass, mosaic chapel, the likes of which the world has never seen.
But when Louis’s dream is threatened by a glassworkers’ strike months before the Fair opens, he turns to an unforeseen source for help: the female students at the Art Students League of New York. Eager for adventure, the young women pick up their skirts, move to boarding houses, take up steel cutters, and assume new identities as the “Tiffany Girls.”
Tiffany Girl is the heartwarming story of the impetuous Flossie Jayne, a beautiful, budding artist who is handpicked by Louis to help complete the Tiffany chapel. Though excited to live in a boarding house when most women stayed home, she quickly finds the world is less welcoming than anticipated. From a Casanova male, to an unconventional married couple, and a condescending singing master, she takes on a colorful cast of characters to transform the boarding house into a home while racing to complete the Tiffany chapel and make a name for herself in the art world.
As challenges mount, her ambitions become threatened from an unexpected quarter: her own heart. Who will claim victory? Her dreams or the captivating boarder next door?
Deeanne Gist returns to one of my favorite events in American history, the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893. Unlike her previous two novels about the event, however, this book keeps its feet firmly planted in New York City with a focus on one of the Fair’s group of artisans. I’d not heard of the Tiffany Girls before and, like many, presumed that Louis Comfort Tiffany designed all the pieces bearing his name. It’s only been in the past decade that fragments of their story have become known, and Gist has now chosen to feature them in her newest novel. The result is a composite of fiction, fact, and supposition.
Tiffany Girl is a long novel, coming in at over 500 pages. I thought it would be wholly about the production of the Tiffany chapel windows, but that turns out to be only part of the story. The narrative continues for at least another 18 months after the windows are finished and sent to Chicago. There are gaps in time, however, possibly because Gist wanted to get so much in to the book. As a result, I suddenly found a year had passed in what felt like just a couple of pages. The romance becomes the predominant focus, although it’s also about self-belief with Reeve and Flossie learning to accept who they are.
Thank you to Howard Publishing for my complimentary review copy of Tiffany Girl, which I received in exchange for my honest review.
Do you plan to read Tiffany Girl? Let me know your thoughts.
Publisher: Howard Publishing (a division of Simon and Schuster)
Publication Date: 05 May 2015
Page Count: 544