NAL Trade March 4, 2014
A copy was provided in exchange for an honest review
“Without sin, can we know beauty? Can we fully appreciate the summer without the winter? No, I am glad to suffer so I can feel the fullness of our time in the light.”
Upstate New York, 1928. Laura Kelley and the man she loves sneak away from their judgmental town to attend a performance of the scandalous Ziegfeld Follies. But the dark consequences of their night of daring and delight reach far into the future.…
That same evening, Bohemian poet Edna St. Vincent Millay and her indulgent husband hold a wild party in their remote mountain estate, hoping to inspire her muse. Millay declares her wish for a new lover who will take her to unparalleled heights of passion and poetry, but for the first time, the man who responds will not bend completely to her will.…
Two years later, Laura, an unwed seamstress struggling to support her daughter, and Millay, a woman fighting the passage of time, work together secretly to create costumes for Millay’s next grand tour. As their complex, often uneasy friendship develops amid growing local condemnation, each woman is forced to confront what it means to be a fallen woman…and to decide for herself what price she is willing to pay to live a full life.
~Goodreads page summary~
When I discovered Robuck’s novel was a story of Millay my curiosity was instantly piqued. I have always admired the wondrous prose of Millay as well as being acutely aware of her prickly nature and artsy lifestyle. I was unsure what direction Robuck would take, how she would portray Millay, what angle would she pursue and I will say, I was completely impressed.
I commend Robuck for selecting Edna St Vincent Millay as her center of focus. Millay is as talented as she is controversial. A trailblazer in feminism, a free spirit living her life and of course her gift of outstanding poetry. The best descriptions I find fitting Millay – a quiet storm, a loud whisper, an angel of hell.
I love a narrative taking two contrasting characters where a single fragile thread connects them. Robuck managed to knit two women that are polar opposites and yet show they share a common denominator.
Laura and Millay couldn’t be more different. The only similarity between the two, they are both outcasts in their respective town. The former for an indiscretion, the latter for her hedonistic lifestyle.
Robuck did not spare the rod in her characterization of Millay. She was both brazen and respectful in displaying this grand creatures true colors. Millay mercurial, brutal, arrogant, wanton and monoclinous, sybaritic. She was also vulnerable and suffered heavily emotionally through the passing of her mother and former friend/lover poet Elinor Wylie, as well as the ending of her tryst with fellow poet George Dillon, leaving this desert rose fragile. Her noted genius and beliefs are also addressed. Both protagonists are viewed with a lens revealing their emotions and creative selfs. Laura is praiseworthy, graceful, a pillar of strength and determination.
Outdoing herself, Robuck shines with the setting. Her landscape is stimulated in all facets – economic, politics, homes, fashion, and societal expectations and attitudes. Undoubtedly you clearly are absorbed in the atmosphere of the 1920-30’s.
Excellent story with numerous themes explored leaving the peruser plucking one or more they find fitting. Robuck deserves praise for her accomplishment, her writing style is breathtaking. Highly recommend, cannot say enough about this marvelous novel.