Since the season finale of HBO’s “The Gilded Age” aired in late March, you might be wondering where you can get that next dose of period drama goodness. The series, created by Julian Fellows of “Downton Abbey”, https://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2022/apr/17/local-book-lovers-recommend-titles-to-fill-gilded/”The Gilded Age” tells the story of 1880s New York through fictional events played out against the backdrop of real historical figures such as Caroline Astor, Ward McAllister, Clara Barton and Thomas Edison as well as real events such as the illumination of the building of the New York Times. by the glowing light in 1882. As we wait for a new season to find out what will happen after the Russell Ball and if Peggy Scott will succeed in her harrowing search, several local bibliophiles have suggested books to help us out until Season II.
Fayetteville Public Library
• Sara Donati’s “The Gilded Hour”: A popular historical fiction writer, Donati combines romance, mystery and social history in this illuminating novel of Golden Age New York. Meticulous research and historical milestones set a vivid stage for memorable characters and their interpersonal relationships during a time of great change in the United States and, in particular, bustling New York City in 1883.
• Anna Godbersen’s “The Luxe”: outrageous and steamy fun in Manhattan high society in 1899. A privileged group of young friends indulge in lavish lifestyles and bad behavior while struggling against social constructs (and corsets). This first book in the “Luxe” series isn’t just “Gossip Girl” in gorgeous dresses. The author brings the worldlings and their world to life in the Golden Age.
• Daisy Goodwin’s ‘The American Heiress’: Excess and scandal on both sides of the pond as American socialite Cora Cash seems to have it all, but her up-and-coming mother wants her to have even more. From Kirkus Reviews: “A shrewd, feisty historical romance with flavors of Edith Wharton, Daphne du Maurier, Jane Austen, Upstairs, Downstairs and a dash of People magazine that charts a bumpy marriage of New World money and of the Old World tradition.”
• “The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic and Madness at the Fair That Changed America” by Erik Larson: Larson is known for his non-fiction narrative writing. Its ability to connect dual stories about real people and important historical events allows readers to see the story from an entirely different perspective. This book focuses on the Chicago World’s Fair spectacle of 1893 and (who many believe to be) America’s first serial killer, HH Holmes. A true crime story is set against a backdrop of social and cultural change as advances in science and engineering move the United States forward from century to century.
Books of two friends
• “Age of Innocence” by Edith Wharton: This is the novel par excellence of the morals of the golden age. Edith Wharton wrote it in 1920 and won the Pulitzer Prize for this layered novel about class, love in 1870s New York. As a huge Jane Austen fan, I remember reading this book as a young woman and falling in love with it. (Also recommended by Renée Findahl.)
• “Portrait of a Lady” by Henry James: Widely considered Henry James’ most important novel, “Portrait of a Lady” is a contemporary novel written in 1870 about Isabel Archer, a lively American heiress traveling to Europe to see tourist sites and meet eligible singles; however, things don’t quite go as planned. James’ exploration of wealth and happiness is truly masterful.
• Joanna Shupe’s “The Knickerbocker Club” series: If you’re looking for something more like “Bridgerton-meets-Gilded Age,” may I suggest Joanna Shupe’s “Knickerbocker Club” series? Set in the Gilded Age, these historical romance novels are steamy, tropical frolics across New York City.
• “The Christie Affair” by Nina de Gramont: While not technically a Golden Age novel, I think it scratches the same itch. Set in 1920s London, “The Christie Affair” follows Agatha Christie during her famous disappearance told from the perspective of her husband’s mistress. Lush, scintillating, mysterious and glamorous, I think this novel would be a fun companion for someone deep in the Golden Age! (Hallee Israel also recommends this one.)
• “The Social Graces” by Renée Rosen: If you liked “The Gilded Age” on HBO, I highly recommend you read “The Social Graces” by Renée Rosen. It has the same upper-class Manhattan setting as the show and deals with similar themes of social class and relationships between women, plus drama! An outsider, in this case Alva Vanderbilt, recently married into high society and finds herself at odds with the powerful Caroline Astor as they battle for the top hostess spot. Rosen examines the relationships between women at a time when their social status was all they had, and does so with a humor and emotion that is sure to appeal to readers. I highly recommend it as a book club choice too! (Rachel Slaton also recommends this one.)
Springdale Public Library
• “Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune” by Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell Jr.: I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to read something that gives readers an inside perspective on great turn of the century estates and how, through time, these estates are more than just physical places. They are representatives of those who built them, owned them, and, in the case of Clark’s three estates, left them empty. The book provides a biographical account of Huguette Clark, who was an incredibly private person. Dedman is writing this biography with a relative of Clark, Paul Clark Newell. This book will satisfy the literary needs of those who want more information about those of the Golden Age and the early 20th century and [want to] gain an inside perspective and understanding of the great estates and their wealthy inhabitants.
• Hanya Yanagihar’s “To Paradise”: The first part is set in Golden Age New York, but it’s an America reimagined and certainly touches on similar topics to Wharton’s. And, at 704 pages, Season 2 could be out before you’re done!
Heather R Hays
Bentonville Public Library
• “A Well-Behaved Woman: A History of the Vanderbilts” by Therese Fowler. I’ve always been fascinated by the role of women in society at this time, because not only were poor women trapped in their situation, but in many ways the rich were too. Alva Vanderbilt was a woman ahead of her time; she played the board game very well but she was also quite progressive in her thinking about women’s rights. I can’t imagine being so rich that you could just decide to build a mansion in New York, or throw a party so lavish it could cost more than five figures! If you enjoy reading about high society in the Gilded Age, Fowler really brings history to life.
Monica Hooper is music editor for What’s Up! and writes for all NWADG Features sections. Email him at [email protected]