A Lady of Good Family
by Jeanne Mackin
Raised among wealth and privilege during
's fabled Gilded Age, a
niece of famous novelist Edith Wharton and a friend to literary great Henry
James, Beatrix Farrand is expected to marry, and to marry well. But as a young
woman traveling through America Europe, she already
knows that gardens are her true passion. How she becomes a woman for whom work
and love, the earthly and the mysterious, are held in delicate balance is the
story of her unique determination to create beauty while remaining true to
I loved this romance. It 's an historical novel about a woman really existed: Beatrix Jones Farrand, a landscape gardener and landscape architect in the United States, she has made more than 100 gardens, including the White House. She's a character so charming, I'm really happy to have been able to know.
It 's set in the United States and in some European countries between the end of the nineteenth century and early twentieth century, a period of great revolution for women: they started to fight for their rights, to vote, to be able to work. Beatrix was born into a wealthy family and is set to become a wife and then a mother but her passion for the gardens was too strong. She will struggle to realize her dream and will get to choose between the passion for her work and the love of a boy just met: there will be a possibility to have both?
It 's written really well and the author has been very good to mix perfectly fiction with real events.
The wonderful cover perfectly reflects the book: there are wonderful descriptions of gardens around the world that that makes you want to have one right to cure.
I loved the story of the ghost of Nero: I live near Piazza del Popolo, and I have not jet met him.....
I recommend it to anyone who loves historical novels and stories with strong female characters.
I will never marry, Beatrix thought. Never
She had passed through the first heady years of womanhood, the first balls, first waltzes, first dancing card and house party invitations, quickly discouraging any serious suitor. “My mother,” she had simply explained when any young man tried to call on her a little too frequently. Now that most of those young men had already wed, she felt she could easily avoid the issue permanently.
She jumped up, eager to be away from the table. “I need to walk,” she said to the others.
Still, they might never have met, the Italian and the American.
Beatrix could have walked in the opposite direction, away from the temple. She could have strolled through the rose garden or gone into the casina. But she chose the temple, that eerie replica of pagan passion.
The gardens were full of Americans; the young man who had just been soundly berated by his family lawyer disliked the sounds of their voices, so full of German consonants, not at all soft like his own Italian. The sounds of conquerors, he thought, laden with wealth and greed and taking much of his homeland back with them when they returned to
York and Boston and . That’s what the
visit to his lawyer had been about: selling artworks. Chicago
Empires rise and fall. He lived in a land of fallen empire. Ahead of him, on the path, was an example of the fall of empire, a group of boys, begging, grimy hands snaking into folds and pockets of passing men and women. They had surrounded a young woman and were practicing their street skills on her. He saw her face, the terror behind the forced calmness of a tight smile. He changed direction and headed toward her.
Still, they might never have met. He could have waved from a distance, yelled a threat, driven the boys off with words. But he kept walking toward her.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Jeanne Mackin ‘s latest novel, A Lady of Good Family, explores the secret life of gilded age Beatrix Jones Farrand, niece of Edith Wharton and the first woman professional landscape design in America. Her previous novel, The Beautiful American, based on the life of model turned war correspondent and photographer, Lee Miller won the CNY 2015 prize for fiction. She has published in American Letters and Commentary and SNReview and other publications and is the author of the Cornell Book of Herbs and Edible Flowers. She was the recipient of a creative writing fellowship from the American Antiquarian Society and her journalism has won awards from the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education. She lives with her husband, Steve Poleskie, in
A Lady of Good Family is available at Barnes and Nobles, Amazon, and other bookstores.
A little interview
Where are you from?
I grew up in a small, lovely town in the Finger Lakes area of New York State. It was quiet and rural and friendly. I could spend all day roaming around woods and fields, when I wasn’t in school. I learned to swim almost as soon as I could walk, and I still love water, that wonderful sensation of cold lightness. I had lots of time and space for daydreaming, which is very important for a writer-to-be.
What was your favorite book when you are a teen?
When I was a teenager my favorite book was Blessed Are the Debonair by Margaret Case Harriman, a memoir about growing up in New York City as the daughter of Frank Case, the manager of the famed Algonquin Hotel. She was friends with Valentino, Clare Boothe Luce and all the other famous actors and writers of the 1920’s 1930’s. Probably what I most loved about this book was how different her big city childhood was from mine. I loved how reading about her childhood added so much to my own. I admit, too, that I was somewhat studious and spent hours memorizing Shakespearean sonnets and monologues. Strange for a teenager, but there you are. I was a strange kid and am now a somewhat strange adult, I suppose.
When did you realize you wanted to became a writer?
I always wanted to write, planned to write. When I was seven or so, I started writing fairy tales. In high school, I wrote monologues and some pretty bad poetry. In college, the only part of my studies I enjoyed was writing the papers. I still remember my favorite: Color Theories of Chaucer in The Canterbury Tales. After college and a few years wandering through Europe and living in Boston, I began to write seriously, that is, with purpose and discipline. Even so, it took years to finish and publish my first novel. It was worth every moment of working and agonizing. If you want to write, need to write, there are simply no substitutes, not even sex or chocolate.
What is your writing day like?
When I’m actively working on a book, I try to write daily, six days a week, for three hours a day, in the early morning. No other time really works for me. By the afternoon I’m totally distracted and running around doing errands, and by evening my imagination has already gone to sleep and I’m not good for anything except light reading and a glass of wine. My husband, on the other hand, writes in the evening, so we kind of live in different time zones, getting together for dinner and a movie before he begins his work and after I’ve ended mine.
What else do you enjoy doing, when you're not writing?
When I’m not writing, I really value the time I spend with my friends, because it is limited and never to be taken for granted. I’ve been having Saturday lunch with the same friends for many, many years, and it gives my life such a wonderful continuity. I have an on-going Friday afternoon happy hour with several writer friends, and we exchange notes about how the week’s work has been. We complain and gloat in ways that only other writers can understand. In the winter, I like to snowshoe, in the summer I like to swim and most of the year, except the snowiest months, I can find some work that needs to be done in my garden, which I have made too large, too ambitious. I love to cook and am pretty good at it, if I say so something. I really believe that if you are going to do something, you should do it as well as you can, with love and respect and joy, whether you are writing a new scene, digging weeds, or making soup.
What are you working on next?
My next novel, already in progress, returns to Paris in the 1930’s and 1940’s, and works with the intense rivalry between fashion designers Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli. The two women had much in common but were also different in very important ways. Elsa was from an aristocratic Roman family; Coco had her roots in the French peasantry. Yet both women were fashion rebels, full of innovation, determined, each in her own way, to make women feel both elegant and comfortable. It’s fun writing about fashion, what it means, how it changes and how it changes us. I’ve never thought so much about what our clothing signifies!
GIVEAWAY INFORMATION and RAFFLECOPTER CODE
Jeanne will be awarding a $15 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.