Sunday, August 2, 2015

Tiffany Girl by Deeanne Gist

How does a modern woman find her way in 1893 New York City? By breaking every rule. Tiffany Girl - May 5th.I just love when a book opens my eyes to the changing social mores of another time, and Deeanne Gist's TIFFANY GIRL has done just that.  Thanks to Antique Roadshow, I knew about the famous Tiffany glass lamps and vases, but I did not know that Tiffany also designed a glass chapel for the 1893 World Exposition in Chicago.  Even more fascinating is that a strike by male glass workers put the whole project behind schedule, even endangering its completion.  So Tiffany who already had a few female workers, sought out a crew of Tiffany Girls -- artists who could learn to trace the patterns and cut the glass for the beautiful panels.  Author Gist, who studied the letters of one of the original designers/Tiffany Girls, takes readers into the studio, but also to the Chicago Exposition, and to Tiffany parties as we follow the life of one fictional Tiffany Girl, Flossie Jayne.  When Flossie Jayne, an aspiring artist learns that her parents will no longer be able to pay for her painting lessons due to her father's gambling, Flossie is determined to live on her own, work, and earn enough money for art school.  A chance visit to her school by the famous Louis Tiffany gives her just the opportunity she wanted.

Without realizing it, Flossie has thrust herself into a society that does not look kindly on the New Women of New York.  She is called names and threatened by the striking glass workers, never completely safe when traveling the streets or public transportation, and is even criticized by the handsome newspaper reporter who lives in her boarding house. Of course, you realize there will be romance mixed with misunderstanding between the reporter and Flossie.  Certainly most of us have heard of boarding houses, but Gist really gets into the minutiae of  1890's boarding house social etiquette.  All of that, even the popular recreations such as ice skating and playing board games, gives the book such a realistic feel.  Pencil drawings of Tiffany designs, women's fashions, and scenes meant to be drawn by Flossie added much to that realism. 

This book is long, and usually I am ready for a book to end before page 400, but TIFFANY GIRL kept my interest right up to page 497, and I found myself immediately reading the historical notes which followed.    I obtained a copy through our library system WINNEFOX, and I know that WPLC our library source for ebooks also has copies.  This is the second book I've read by
Gist with ties to the 1893 Fair.  I wonder what piece of history she will select next.  

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