The Gilded Hour

The Gilded HourThe Gilded Hour by Sara Donati
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The gilded hour is that liminal time after the sun has set and before all the light has faded - a time to contemplate the day, and plan for the next.  The Gilded Hour, set in 1883, illuminates the lives of intersecting families - a thoughtful but realistic police officer who is the son of Italian-Jewish immigrants, two women doctors - cousins - whose struggles to find acceptance and respect are complicated by love and the evil of ignorance, and four Italian orphans who are separated by forces that may be accepted in the eyes of society, but that do not stand up to loving scrutiny.

The sheer detail of this long, dense, vivid book is one of its joys. Nothing - not the last stages of the Brooklyn Bridge, the ferry rides to an unimaginably rural Staten Island, the splendor of the Vanderbilt mansions, the hideous squalor of the streets - is wasted; all of it brings you into the story, breathless and fearful, joyful and expectant. The two cousins, one a Free Woman of Color, struggle against the medical mainstream as well as the forces of Anthony Comstock, which would deny women even the most basic understanding of their bodies and choices. That they accomplish what the do is simply amazing. Even the recent national history is important, as choices made during the Civil War continue to resound through the lives of every New Yorker.

I wish there were more than five stars to award. I learned so much from this book, and I came to love the characters so much. It's going to be hard to wait for the next book in the series.

Thank you, Goodreads, for giving me a copy of this book in exchange for a fair review.

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