The Gilded Hour: A Novel. Sara Donati. Penguin Group (USA). September 2015. 752 pp. ISBN#: 9780425271810.
1883 – What’s it like to be a woman doctor, a female doctor of color, a defenseless orphan unable to speak English, a physician working with poor women who are unable to practice birth control and more? The Gilded Hour… is a novel about individuals who are willing to do anything to guarantee justice, who will attempt the impossible in order to assure integrity and control for those least likely to possess or receive either.
Dr. Anna Savard and Dr. Sophie Savard are adult survivors. They were fortunate enough to be orphans who were cared for by strong-minded people who gave them unlimited opportunities. But they are still fighting a system that would deny them practicing among the poor and disenfranchised female population of New York City. Anna, a respected surgeon, is first moved to care about the plight of Italian immigrant children when she visits children who need to be vaccinated in order to be granted entry into America, who are separated from each other by a system that seeks to profit from children who have no one to protect their best interests. Rosa is the child who haunts Anna for Rosa will not be cajoled into silence about her missing brothers.
Sophie, a practicing obstetrician and gynecologist, refuses to marry Cap, a tubercular patient in the latter stages of the disease. Initially he rejects her because he does not wish to spread his contagious disease and she rejects him as she does not want her eventual children to be scorned as children of color. Eventually, however, when Cap receives the opportunity for experimental treatment, they will both reconsider their options, only to be thwarted initially by formidable circumstances.
Anna begins to care about Jack but is extremely hesitant to allow herself to care and perhaps have a different future because of her own past history. Their search for the missing Italian boys and then search for justice during a medical trial offers them both a chance to control their own destinies rather than be bound by inner lies.
It’s fascinating to see how organizations operated and manipulated the medical community by making birth control, abortion, etc. criminal acts that could not only guarantee jail time for said physicians but ruin bright, caring careers.
The Gilded Hour: A Novel is fascinating reading about a very volatile historical period as well as a fine, engaging read, with a little romance added as a quietly but poignant touch! Nicely done, again, Sara Donati!
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