The act of reading ... begins on a flat surface, counter or page, and then gets stirred and chopped and blended until what we make, in the end, is a dish, or story, all our own.
— Adam Gopnik
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June 9, 2012

Knowing the story

What a wonderful beginning for a book!  Jean Zimmerman went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in search of this painting -- Mr. and Mrs. I. N. Phelps Stokes, by John Singer Sargent (1897) -- when she was researching a massive (but largely forgotten) book on New York City by the gentleman in the picture, Isaac Newton Phelps Stokes.  She wanted to know more about the sitters (who wouldn't?), especially Mrs. Stokes, and ended up writing Love, Fiercely:  A Gilded Age Romance. ('Fiercely,' as it turns out, is the nickname given to Edith Minturn by her brothers when she was a little girl.)  They were childhood friends, growing up in the same social circle in New York, but didn't marry (unusually) until they were both 28. I haven't gotten to that yet, but I'm sure their story will be even more enchanting when I do.

This isn't a book I had heard about (before it was mentioned in the library's new books newsletter, for which I'm grateful!) but if you're an Edith-head like me -- that's like being a Deadhead, but the clothes are much nicer -- I would already recommend it.  There are obvious parallels to her novels -- and they're frequently drawn -- but these were unconventional people, and it's lovely getting to know them.


Lisa May said...

I had not heard of this book - thanks for your review. I'm really excited to read it, and fortunately our city library has it. I recently read a diary of New York's Gilded Age, this will be an interesting compare & contrast. And John Singer Sargent is one of my favorite artists!

JoAnn said...

I never did like tie dye much....

Darlene said...

Oh doesn't that young lady look confident!?

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