Thursday, September 10, 2015

"The Gilded Hour"

Rosina Lippi is a former academic and tenured university professor. Since 2000 she spends her time haunting the intersection where history and storytelling meet where she wallows in 19th century newspapers, magazines, street maps, and academic historical research. And she never gets bored with any of it.

Under the pen name Sara Donati she is the author of the Wilderness series, six historical novels that follow the fortunes of the Bonner family in the vast forests in upstate New York, from about 1792-1825. Her newest novel about the Bonner family is The Gilded Hour. The new series jumps ahead past the destruction of the Civil War to follow Nathaniel and Elizabeth’s granddaughters into the twentieth century.

Donati applied the Page 69 Test to The Gilded Hour and reported the following:
From page 69:
"You're shivering," Anna said, and handed Sophie a set of fur lined gloves from her Gladstone bag. Sophie had never acclimated to New York weather but still regularly overestimated her tolerance for cold. Anna, who knew her better than anyone, had packed extra gloves, a scarf and even a pair of the heavy wool socks Mrs. Lee knitted for each of them every winter. Sophie was a little embarrassed, but not so vain as to pretend she didn't need the things Anna handed her.
I like this paragraph because it captures something important about the relationship between the two main characters. Anna and Sophie Savard are distant cousins, both orphaned at a young age by the Civil War, who grew up together in their aunt Quinlan's household in Manhattan and shared everything from childhood joys to medical school. In this scene they are waiting for a hearing to start in the building called the Tombs -- the very apt nickname for the main courthouse. They are both anxious for good reason, but they handle anxiety about professional issues in very different ways: Anna focuses on caring for the people around her, turning outward, while Sophie turns inward to confront the problem. When the issue is a personal, emotional one, Anna turns inward, and Sophie outward.

One of the major themes of this novel, something that I had to really work to capture, was the way children who suffer terrible loss learn to cope -- or don't. The novel takes place not twenty years after the end of the Civil War, which was devastating in ways we can't really comprehend in the 21st century western world. Anna and Sophie survived and found their footing, in large part because they had each other.
Visit Sara Donati's website.

--Marshal Zeringue