Friday, March 24, 2017

Friday Five: Favorite NYC Set Books (Historical Fiction)

This is my third post about books set in one of the best cities in the world, New York.  (Here's contemporary fiction and non-fiction/memoir).  We've visited New York three times (so far) and it remains in my top five places I've ever been.  Since I'll never live there (and not sure I would want to long term) I love reading books about people who actually do.  Usually under completely different circumstances than I could even live there, this list for obvious reasons (can't time travel!).  Until we make our next trip, here are a few books to help me get through my New York travel urge.

A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams
Not the first time I've mentioned this book and it remains my favorite of hers, maybe in my top 10 of all time?  (That's list would be almost impossible to put together.)  It's the story of Lily Dane, told both in 1931 and 1938 and how her 1931 life got her to 1938 remains a bit of a mystery that is slowly revealed as both timeline speed towards big events where everything comes together.  There is love, lost love, New Years Eve in New York, college football games, sparkly dresses, and lazy days at the beach.  I've read this multiple times and have so enjoyed it every time.

The Pink Suit by Nicole Mary Kelby 
Jackie Kennedy's pink "Chanel" suit that she was wearing in Dallas in November 1963 might be one of the most famous items of clothing in recent American history.  She wore it two decades before I was born and I still have long known about it.  However, this isn't (much) of a story of Jackie Kennedy, rather the (fictional) seamstress who made that famous suit.  Set in New York in the 1960 with a nice dose of Irish charm.  You know how the suit is going to end up but who knew all the possible drama that (maybe) went into making it.  And it's about a lot more than sewing.

Brooklyn by Colm Toibin
You may have heard of this one, having been made into a (pretty charming and sweet) movie recently.  It's the story of a young woman named Eilis living in Ireland in the 1950s.  She doesn't have much going for her there and her sister arranges for a priest to sponsor her trip to New York, on boat (that apparently wasn't very pleasant).  She lives in a boarding house with other women (one of whom is named Diana) and sells hoisery.  She meets an Italian boy.  She's homesick.  She slowly learns to make Brooklyn home (the boy might help).  Family things happen.  Will she make Ireland or New York her home home?  It's slow but sweet and charming, speaks fondly of both places.

The Forgotten Room by Karen White, Beatriz Williams, and Lauren Willig
These three authors tell the stories of three different women, all of whom end up living in the same room of the same building, in different decades (1892, 1920, and 1944).  Their stories might be connected beyond the shared living space but it takes a long time to unwind all the stories and histories.  I drew a chart at one point to make sure I was getting the stories straight (and I was, although there were some surprises) but don't let chart drawing detour you.  It was fun and romantic and a lovely look at different points of history.

The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin
This one is set in the 1950s and follows Truman Capote and his "Swans": rich, socialites who befriended and The Pink Suit as well. 
coddled him.  They all love him.  He loves them.  Then he ends up writing a book that is (very thinly veiled) about them.  Then they don't like him so much.  I knew basically nothing about him before reading this and still only really know what was in this book.  That might be enough for me.  But it was a fascinating look at a different time, place, and lifestyle.  I will never be a New York socialite, much less one in the 1950s.  If you've ever wondered what it was like to live that life, you might find this interesting.  Bonus: some characters here get a mention in

Most books set in New York just increase my itch to travel there again.  These make me wish I could time travel as well.  What good New York set books do you have to recommend?

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