Tiffany Girl: A Novel. Deeanne Gist. Howard Books. May 2015. 544 pp. ISBN#: 9781451692440.
Flossie Jayne is the “New Woman” behind this story of the artist and entrepreneur, Louis Tiffany, whose first major project was creating stained glass religious windows for the World’s Fair in Chicago in 1893. The glassworkers working on his project go on strike and Tiffany has no choice but to hire woman to do the cutting, pasting and other chores that are part of fashioning the project windows. Thus begins a fascinating novel in which Jayne is one of the chosen, a dream for her who loves colors and designs beyond life itself and will do anything to help Tiffany complete this project.
While she’s working she has chosen to live in a family style boarding house where the residents share meals and conversation. Jayne is a wonderful addition as it is she who turns what were formerly stilted greetings and curt remarks into this ‘family” style. She creates dinner cards with questions to draw out conversation, quickly organizes skating outings, and more. But one of the residents, Reed, is a bit of a curmudgeon who hates the idea of the “New Woman” who wants to be independent, self-sufficient for salary and career, and more. This is also their story as Jayne little by little, and I do mean little, softens Reed who is really nothing more than a man hurt by the past. However, he plays the part well but also plays it stupidly as he projects his animosity into creating short stories that are serialized into the local paper.
This a great story with something for everyone. Plenty of descriptions of the art Jayne and Tiffany create as well as the processes involved fill the pages, and Gist is perfect in depicting the beauty and difficulty of each task. Then there’s a not-so-budding and budding romance that slowly evolves which makes a great story in itself. And then there is the consideration of what would happen if the “New Woman’ becomes the norm – would society be forevermore changed in a positive or negative way?
Very nice historical fiction which this reviewer thoroughly enjoyed and highly recommends!