This is a beautifully written work of historical fiction, lush in its telling. Rife with historical and period detail, it is a fully absorbing story. Written as a first person narrative with well developed characters, and a fairly good storyline, those readers who enjoy this genre of book will be delighted with it.
With the events taking pace at the turn of the twentieth century, the story is told by Louise Barrett, the attractive and intelligent, thirty something headmistress of an elite all girls school in Buffalo, New York. In her unique position, Louise hobnobs with a rich and powerful, cabal of men who treat her almost as an equal, though she is a woman.
Independent of spirit, Louise goes through life doing, in small ways, all she can do to encourage her charges to seek a higher education and to look past those roles expected of their sex by society at large. Her life has settled into a comfortable and reassuring routine, until a strange death propels her into confronting persons and events that have impacted on her life in ways that she did not even know at the time. The book is really about a woman's dawning realization about her life, set against the background of a city caught in the cross-hairs of political and economic strife, and the fact that one may not be the master of one's fate, as one might presume.
The narrative is filled with secrets that come billowing out slowly. While some of the secrets are really not all that surprising, the details in spelling out the events are a little cumbersome, at times, serving almost to stall the narrative somewhat. Still, there is much to love about this densely plotted book, as the author's writing style is positively luminous. All in all, this is a praiseworthy debut novel.