Release Date: May 31, 2016
Publisher: Harper Paperbacks
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss
Genre: Historical | Literary Fiction
An enthralling Edith Wharton-meets-Little Women debut about a family of four artistic sisters on the outskirts of Gilded Age New York high society that centers on the boldest—an aspiring writer caught between the boy next door and a mysterious novelist who inducts her into Manhattan’s most elite artistic salon.
The Bronx, 1891. Virginia Loftin knows what she wants most: to become a celebrated novelist despite her gender, and to marry Charlie, her best friend, neighbor and first love. Yet when Charlie proposes to another woman, Ginny is devastated; shutting out her family, she holes up and obsessively rewrites how their story should have gone. Though Ginny works with newfound intensity, success eludes her—until she attends a salon hosted in her brother’s handsome author friend John’s Fifth Avenue mansion. Amongst painters, musicians, actors, and writers, Ginny returns to herself, even blooming under John’s increasingly romantic attentions. Just as she has begun to forget Charlie, however, he throws himself back into her path, and Ginny finds herself torn between a lifetime’s worth of complicated feelings and a budding relationship with a man who seems almost too good to be true.
The brightest lights cast the darkest shadows, and as Ginny tentatively navigates the Society’s world, she begins to suspect all is not as it seems in New York’s dazzling “Gay Nineties” scene. When a close friend is found dead in John’s mansion, Ginny must delve into her beloved salon’s secrets to discover her true feelings about art, family, and love.
That said I find THE FIFTH AVENUE ARTISTS SOCIETY a historical novel based on the taste of our time. It's rife with challenges, drama, and a very dark and tragic turn in the end. I love the Loftin siblings, they're relatable in their dreams, victories, heartaches and failures. Even when I knew they're overreaching at times, I rooted for them and wanted them to become the new mavericks in their respective fields. Virginia is at the forefront as the main narrator but the rest of her siblings, and their challenging side stories, are very present in the novel. The ending is unconventional in that it didn't end with a bright, shiny, happy bow. Again, the Loftins' life stories are very real with its tragic turns and losses. There's a dark twist that happened on the latter third that devastated and tore the family apart permanently. I wish the final resolution has more closure, then again given the circumstances, it's not surprising how the story concluded.
JCallaway wrote a fantastic story here, I love how she played up the frailty of human nature and explored the imperfections of the characters perfectly. The pace is perfect and the story has substance and written in such a way that will make you feel and think about the whole thing.