"You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me."

-C.S. Lewis

What we read has such an impact on us, and I am always on the lookout for something that will inspire me to be a better person. Here is a sampling of books that have been in the teetering stack sitting on top of what is rumored to be my bedside table.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

The Secret Life of Violet Grant, by Beatriz Williams

Important Warning That The Book Jacket Doesn't Tell You:  Don't start reading this book on a Monday night of a busy work week.  Save it for a weekend when you'll be able to truly enjoy it.  And make sure you have meals ready to go in your freezer so your family doesn't starve while you're locked in your bedroom devouring this book.

The Premise:  Vivian Schuyler, an aspiring magazine writer in mid 1960s New York, takes delivery of a suitcase that was apparently lost by her aunt in 1914 Zurich.  The only trouble is, while the suitcase has been found, her aunt has been missing since 1914.  Family legend has it that dear Auntie Violet murdered her husband, ran off with her lover, and is either dead or doesn't want to be found.

But Vivian sees the potential career-launching story in this.  She starts delving into the mystery of her aunt's disappearance a la Letters to Juliet, although this story is much more fascinating.  Because Aunt Violet, as it turns out, was disowned by the family for denying her destiny of being a proper tea-pouring, corset-wearing lady.  Instead, she becomes educated enough to be accepted for a position at Oxford and later in Berlin as an atomic scientist.  The woman hobnobs with Einstein and his colleagues, and the research of the author allows us an interesting look at a very small part of this world.

The story alternates chapters between 1960s Vivian and pre-World War I Violet, and each story is just as riveting as the other.  And since two different stories are told in each chapter, this book truly is a page turner.  The lives of both women parallel each other as we learn of their struggles and triumphs.  We see how both women come into their own in the world, and the contrast between the two eras is accented.

The writing is witty and the plot is fast-paced.  In each section, you've got a proper villain and spunky heroines who are each fighting for their own place in their world.  With espionage and romance, to boot.  I was sorry to have to put this book down when I was finished.  I recommend this book to anyone who is looking for good historical fiction about strong women.

Five out of Five Stars