Sunday, 14 February 2021

The Secret Life of Violet Grant

Finished February 12
The Secret Life of Violet Grant by Beatriz Williams

This is part of a trilogy with each book focusing on a different sister in the Schuyler family. I've read them in reverse order, but that didn't really pose an issue. 
This book is about Vivian Schuyler, a young woman newly graduated from college (Bryn Mawr) and with a job as a fact checker at a New York magazine called The Metropolitan. The year is 1964, and as the book opens Vivian has a notice of a parcel to pickup, and only a few minutes before the post office closes for the weekend. At the post office she meets a young surgical intern, who not only helps her maneuver the bureaucracy, but also helps her by carrying the large parcel to her apartment. 
The parcel has been forwarded and was originally addressed to a Violet Schuyler at her parents' address. It contains a large locked suitcase belonging to said Violet. Vivian has never heard of a Violet in her family and begins digging into the past. The contents of the suitcase provide some interesting clues, and one of her aunts proves to be helpful, as does an older cousin.
She soon finds that Violet was her father's sister, a bit of a rebel, who went off to London to work as a scientist in 1911. She apparently married the professor in charge of the lab that she worked for, and followed him to a new position in Berlin. At the beginning of the First World War, her husband was found murdered, and she had disappeared, presumably the perpetrator. 
As Vivian uses all her wiles and contacts to find out more about her aunt, she also must deal with an increasingly complex romantic entanglement with the young doctor.
Vivian is quite the character, an intelligent and beautiful young woman with a charming manner that she knows how to use to her best advantage. 
We also see Violet's story, a young intelligent beautiful woman as well, but unaware of her charms, and quite naive. She is easily taken advantage of by her supervising professor, and drawn into a marriage that it a sham of convenience for her husband and of limited advantage to her. She concentrates on her science, and is brought into the world of other prominent European scientists, Max Planck, Albert Einstein, and Lise Meitner. With this group, she finds support and intellectual stimulation as well as a social circle that she feels comfortable in. 
I found both storylines quite interesting, and Vivian quite a charismatic and entertaining character. She is a dogged researcher, following every clue she has. I could hardly put the book down, it captured me so completely.

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