- Paperback: 384 pages
- Publisher: NAL Trade (March 4, 2014)
- ISBN-10: 0451418905
- Source: Publisher
Laura Kelly is a young seamstress living in 1928 upstate New York. After her father’s death and her own “fall from grace” (becoming pregnant out of wedlock), the only way Laura and her young daughter, Grace, can survive is by the kindness of others. Unfortunately, this small town has shunned Laura since Grace’s birth, finding it far more difficult to sustain a livelihood.
Just miles away, poetess Edna St. Vincent Millay lives with her husband Eugen. The couple throws outrageous parties, shocking townspeople with her bohemian ways. Edna (referred to as Vincent) becomes entranced with Laura’s talented work and begs her to create an elaborate wardrobe for her. Unfortunately, an act that took place during one of Millay’s elaborate parties has Laura torn between standing strong against Millay’s bohemian lifestyle and the realization that she has to accept whatever work comes her way if she wants to survive.
What Robuck has created in Fallen Beauty is a completely awe-inspiring juxtoposition between two characters: Laura, a fallen beauty, punished by the townspeople after one act of indiscretion; and Millay, a brilliant, carefree poet who seems to have it all…except the love of one man. These two woman, at polar ends of a moral parallel, brought together out of coincidence and convenience. At the surface, it seems as though it is Laura who needs Millay to survive, yet in time Millay discovers she needs Laura just as much, if not more.
The character readers will find most endearing is that of young Grace. I’m certain her naming was intentional, for it is this young girl that brings together so many ailing individuals. Grace’s innocence allows characters to lower the curtain of insecurity that shields them, allowing them to see the life, and love, standing right before them. Grace is the beacon of hope that so many of the characters in this novel needed to see beyond all the darkness and despair surrounding them.
While this is a fictionalized telling of Millay’s life, Robuck obviously undertook a tremendous amour of research so that she could so expertly capture Millay’s persona. Admittedly, I do not know much about this poet yet Robuck’s vision of this saucy, surly woman has me compelled to know more about her. This is a trademark of Robuck’s talented writing: each and every time I finish reading one of her novels I scramble to learn more about the individual she based it upon.
Robuck has made a name for herself in the historical fiction genre. While it’s not a genre I read as often any more, each time she releases a new title I make it a mission to read it. She captures everything I appreciate most about this genre and, in doing so, influences a whole wave of new readers to embrace it as well. Highly, highly recommended.