The Way of Beauty by Camille Di Maio
Yesterday I was talking about book clubs, and getting to read books that are well outside of my usual choice of genre. Today is about of of those books!
Saltwater Reads chose The Way of Beauty for their June pick, and I am really, really glad they did because I really, really got to enjoy this story.
Set in the early and mid-1900's the story follows the relationships first of Vera, and then of her daughter Alice, as they navigate the complicated world of love.
Vera is pulled into a friendship with Pearl, a suffragette who is fighting for women's rights across the country. Her friendship with Pearl is further complicated by the fact that Pearl is married to Vera's oldest, and dearest friend, Angelo - a man she has been in love with her entire life.
Years later, Alice finds herself torn between two worlds, as she tries to define what makes for a lifetime love.
Despite the fact that historical fiction is not usually something I read, I loved many things about this book - Camille Di Maio set the story against the constantly evolving landscape of New York at a time when transportation was changing from horse to car to rail, and the first and second world wars were sweeping the nation.
I loved Vera as a character, a complex and conflicted human, working hard to understand her place in a world as a German immigrant, and as a young woman. I found her to be so wonderfully warm, and I was rooting hard for her love story to have a happy ending. I also loved Pearl, although I found myself struggling with some of the decisions she made as a character. However, it was Pearl's ferocity that has since led to me randomly googling the suffragette movement to learn more about this kick-ass women who did so much. I feel like that is a marker of a good book for me - when I find myself wanting to go out and learn more about a topic that would have never otherwise crossed my mind.
The only part of this story that didn't full hit with me, was the fact that I found the transition from the first part to the second slightly abrupt - I wish there had been a more fulsome rounding to the first part, and that we got to see more of Vera's life play out. However, that is only because I had become so invested in her story, and could have happily read her entire life play out on the pages.
Overall, this was a superb read for me, and one that devoured in about a day. I would absolutely recommend this for some fun summer reading!