What do you think?
Rate this book
327 pages, Hardcover
First published June 28, 2016
When the girls admire him a young man takes it as a matter of course; but when a widow selects him for her attention he thrills with the knowledge that he is being stamped with the approval of a connoisseur. - Helen RowlandWell, Mrs Theresa Marshal, 44, is no widow. She shares a 5th Avenue residence and a lovely place in Southampton with her very-much-alive husband, Sylvester. Octavian Rofrano, the 22-year-old she often refers to as Boyo, manages to prove, with some frequency and energy, that he is even more alive than the senior man in Theresa’s life. Marshall is goofy for her flyboy, Rofrano being late of World War I, although a lot less late than most of his fellow pilots. She is stuck on him enough to have begun having notions of them taking it on the lam together. If only life were so simple.
LOVE, the quest; marriage, the conquest; divorce, the inquest. - Helen RowlandPatty is a fun element, but the star of this show is Theresa Marshall. I kept hearing the voice of Lady Mary from Downton Abbey, albeit it with an American accent. Lest one think of her as maybe too modern a woman, it should be borne in mind that the 20s was not called Roaring for nothing. It was a time of change. Boundaries were being pushed. Sophie is considered daring because she wants to work for her living instead of being a prize awarded to the highest bidder. Theresa takes advantage of the more daring culture of the day to match her philandering mate, for a change, in partaking of the world. Octavian confronts considerable survivor guilt, having made it through the vagaries of The Great War, while having lost so many of his fellow flyers.
Everybody seems to be going through life at automobile speed nowadays; but alas, there are no sentimental garages by Life's wayside at which we may obtain a fresh supply of emotions, purchase a new thrill or patch up an exploded ideal. - Helen RowlandThe title refers not only to the chronological status of Theresa Marshall, (and the May/December couplings of Jay with Sophie, and Theresa’s hubby with his latest young thing) but the times themselves. Williams offers a nifty look at the 1920s, peppering her novel with elements of the dynamic culture and the odd sign-post. Ty Cobb and his infamous demeanor are tossed across the stage early on. Man O’War thunders past in a back-story role, bringing Octavian and Theresa together. That relatively new-fangled automotive device comes in for some use as well. Here is a nice passage that gives a sense of much of this era-capturing
The bartender. The bar. So forbidden and masculine, an unimaginable place for a girl to find herself—alone!—until now. Until suddenly boys and girls are going to saloons together, and they aren’t called saloons any more. A whole new vocabulary is springing up overnight, it seems, like mushrooms or crocuses, all clustered around the underground slaking of illegal thirst, and it seems the more illegal the thirst is, the more ordinary and acceptable it’s become to slake it in mixed company, among strangers. And the vocabulary has something to do with that, doesn’t it? Hooch, speakeasy, blotto. Silly words, trivializing the laws they’re breaking. Trivializing everything in the world.I love how Williams posilutely picks up the sudden societal unsteadiness that followed the horror of war, as the world tried, once more, to regain its balance. It is putting her story in the context of a time of great upheaval, made manifest in her characters, that raises it from a pretty good novel, with a sparkling character in Theresa, to something higher.
Love is like appendicitis; you never know when nor how it is going to strike you—the only difference being that, after one attack of appendicitis, your curiosity is perfectly satisfied - Helen RowlandAnd if that’s not enough you might think it’s the bees knees that the story is based on the German opera, Der Rosenkavalier. The name Octavian Rofrano is lifted whole from that. The Marshcallin, Princess Marie Therese von Werdenberg becomes Theresa Marshall. Baron Ochs auf Lerchenau has become Theresa’s brother, usually called Ox. Sophie remains Sophie. Williams added the murder mystery element to move things along, as the plot of her source material was a bit thin. It is no surprise that she finds inspiration in the classics. Williams was raised in Ashland, Oregon, and was exposed early on to a regular diet of Shakespeare and some of the more refined forms of public entertainment offered in that notable college town.
After marriage, a woman's sight becomes so keen that she can see right through her husband without looking at him, and a man's so dull that he can look right through his wife without seeing her. - Helen RowlandOne of the truly delightful elements of this novel is that every one of the 27 chapters is introduced by a deliciously cynical (well, most are, anyway) quote from Helen Rowland. And if the name is unfamiliar, you are in good company. Rowland wrote a column called Reflections of a Bachelor Girl for The New York World in the early part of the 20th century. I have included in EXTRA STUFF a link to the Gutenberg edition(s) of one of her books of collected wit and wisdom, A Guide to Men, and sprinkled into this review some Rowland quotes taken, not from the book under review, but from Rowland’s opus, to give you a taste.
– The Wicked City “A spin-off series about a steadfast Prohibition agent and the dashing New York City flapper who — reluctantly — helps him break a bootlegging ring, all of which is framed by a contemporary narrative about the woman who moves into the flapper’s old apartment, decades later. The Wicked books will come out in winter, alternating with my stand-alone books in summer, and those fictional worlds will definitely intersect, though you won’t have to read one to read the other.”