Published: April 12, 2016
Genre: Historical Fiction (Depression Era United States)
Source: TLC Book Tours
You might enjoy this book if you like: Stories about the upper crust of society, Stories about Irish Immigrants, Novels set in Boston
Maeve Fanning is a first generation Irish immigrant, born and raised among the poor, industrious Italian families of Boston’s North End by her widowed mother. Clever, capable, and as headstrong as her red hair suggests, she’s determined to better herself despite the overwhelming hardships of the Great Depression.
However, Maeve also has a dangerous fondness for strange men and bootleg gin—a rebellious appetite that soon finds her spiraling downward, leading a double life. When the strain proves too much, Maeve becomes an unwilling patient in a psychiatric hospital, where she strikes up a friendship with an enigmatic young woman, who, like Maeve, is unable or unwilling to control her un-lady-like desire for freedom.
Once out, Maeve faces starting over again. Armed with a bottle of bleach and a few white lies, she lands a job at an eccentric antiques shop catering to Boston’s wealthiest and most peculiar collectors. Run by an elusive English archeologist, the shop is a haven of the obscure and incredible, providing rare artifacts as well as unique access to the world of America’s social elite. While delivering a purchase to the wealthy Van der Laar family, Maeve is introduced to beautiful socialite Diana Van der Laar—only to discover she’s the young woman from the hospital.
Reunited with the charming but increasingly unstable Diana and pursued by her attractive brother James, Mae becomes more and more entwined with the Van der Laar family—a connection that pulls her into a world of moral ambiguity and deceit, and ultimately betrayal. Bewitched by their wealth and desperate to leave her past behind, Maeve is forced to unearth her true values and discover how far she’ll to go to reinvent herself.
There are books that I can only describe as being literary Chinese food, I enjoy the book while I read it--at times I can't even put it down--but, once I'm done, I just don't feel satisfied. There is a lot in Rare Objects to recommend it, but I just didn't feel that it came together at the end.
The novel has a promising start--our heroine finds herself in a mental hospital, where she meets Diana, a mysterious but fragile woman. We are quickly brought back to 1930's Boston, where the bulk of the action takes place. I liked Maeve as a character. She definitely has her flaws and, in her quest to find her way in the world, she makes some bad choices, However, I felt betrayed by the narrative right off--there really was no reason for Maeve to find herself in a mental hospital, other than to meet Diana. What brought her there was not a major point in the book and almost forgotten about within pages.
Diana could have been more interesting than she was. I found her to be a little flat and the "twists" in her character were either not really supported or entirely predictable. I found most of the secondary characters, like Diana, to be one-dimensional. I also felt that there were just too many of them. I found both Diana's society set and Maeve's North End friends to be promising, but there just weren't enough pages to give either their due.
I found Maeve's employers, Mr. Kessler and Mr. Winshaw to be the two most intriguing characters. I do think that Tessaro succeeded with Kessler, but she never seemed to be able to fully realize Winshaw, which I found frustrating as a reader.
There is plenty of action to keep the story going--as I said, the story kept me going and, at times, I couldn't put it down. However, I didn't feel that Maeve had really transformed from where she was at the beginning of the book to where she was at the end. In fact, I wasn't even sure the book was about her--at times, I felt this book was about Diana instead.
While the experience of this book was an entertaining one, it did leave a strange aftertaste. I wouldn't say that I wouldn't recommend this book, but I think I would be careful about who I recommended it to. If you tend to really dig into your reading, this one is probably not for you.
Kathleen Tessaro is the author of Elegance, Innocence, The Flirt, and The Debutante. She lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with her husband and son.
Find out more about Kathleen at her website and connect with her on Facebook.
I received a copy of this book in return for an honest review. I received no other compensation for this post.