By: Amber Brock
Publication Date: 5/3/2016
My Rating: 4 Stars
Set in the glamorous 1920s, A Fine Imitation is an intoxicating debut that sweeps readers into a privileged Manhattan socialite's restless life and the affair with a mysterious painter that upends her world, flashing back to her years at Vassar and the friendship that brought her to the brink of ruin.
Vera Bellington has beauty, pedigree, and a penthouse at The Angelus--the most coveted address on Park Avenue. But behind the sparkling social whirl, Vera is living a life of quiet desperation. Her days are an unbroken loop of empty, champagne-soaked socializing, while her nights are silent and cold, spent waiting alone in her cavernous apartment for a husband who seldom comes home.
Then Emil Hallan arrives at The Angelus to paint a mural above its glittering subterranean pool. The handsome French artist moves into the building, shrouds his work in secrecy, and piques Vera's curiosity, especially when the painter keeps dodging questions about his past. Is he the man he claims to be? Even as she finds herself increasingly drawn to Hallan's warmth and passion, Vera can't suppress her suspicions. After all, she has plenty of secrets, too--and some of them involve art forgers like her bold, artistically talented former friend, Bea, who years ago, at Vassar, brought Vera to the brink of catastrophe and social exile.
When the dangerous mysteries of Emil's past are revealed, Vera faces an impossible choice--whether to cling to her familiar world of privilege and propriety or to risk her future with the enigmatic man who has taken her heart. A Fine Imitation explores what happens when we realize that the life we've always led is not the life we want to have.
A special thank you to Crown, NetGalley (digital), and LibraryThing (print) for an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Southern author, Amber Brock delivers A FINE IMITATION –an intriguing historical fiction debut of glamour, art, deception, secrets, scandal, friendship, romance, and desire. The exciting Jazz Age, emphasizes the era’s social, artistic, and cultural dynamism—and a woman’s role in this changing time. Difficult choices. The book opens in 1913 at Vassar College, a private, liberal arts college in the town of Poughkeepsie, New York. Founded as a women's college in 1861, became coeducational in 1969. Two young women: Vera Longacre, senior meets Georgian scandalous Southern belle, Bea Stillman from Atlanta (formerly at Agnes Scott). Her family wanted her to benefit from society. Friends they became. As long as they were friends, Vera did not have to worry about a lack of excitement. Bea was lively and exciting—she was incorrigible. Different social classes. However, Bea was a risk taker, and Vera played it safe, pressured by family. Bea offered freedom. And there was Cliff and Arthur. Bea had secrets. Flashing back and forth, dual time periods and narratives: New York City, 1923, swept away in the glamorous penthouse of the Angelus building. Vera Bellington, Manhattan socialite, has beauty, sophistication, pedigree, and wealth. Her husband ten years older, financially sound had built the building in 1919—the two dominated the society within the building. She was bored with her husband (Arthur)’s late nights, trips away. There were so-called friends, charities, money; however, she was lonely and restless. She thinks of love, friendships, and regrets of the past. Her mother always threw up her education at Vassar, in art history-- she needed to get some use out of her studies. A French dealer with an established gallery in Paris. Vera had agreed to see the painting for a mural for their building. From Vassar College days to the sophistication of the twenties in New York. The young girls' plans were to marry rich and make Bea into a real New Yorker. Bea had artistic talent and passing grades. She liked to live on the wild side. However, Bea did not feel the need to study or excel—after all she knew they would have lovely lunches in the city, dinner parties, and trips to the shore, households to manage. A rich man to carry the load. However, Bea had her secrets.Their girlish mistakes. Today, Vera often wonders what Bea’s life had become. She had imagined her enjoying a glamorous nightlife, juggling suitors, dancing at clubs until the wee hours of the morning. She spots her at the gallery, a secretary? After ten years of a loveless marriage, she knew Arthur’s late nights and trips to the office was not what it appeared. She was unhappy. The relationship with her overbearing mother had always been strained, pushing her to be a wife in high society. It was about making her mother happy, and everyone but herself. Even her parent's marriage had been more like a business partnership. A mural project. Emil Hallan, a handsome sexy French artist. Currently in Paris and he was coming to the city. Maybe it would be someone she could actually carry on a conversion with. He was posh. Mysterious. Secretive. An attraction. An affair. A chance for romance. Enigmatic Pasts are slowly unraveled. Happiness or security? An ongoing mystery surrounding Bea, keeping readers page-turning. From the elegant roaring twenties, challenges of women of this period, a time of glamour, and sophistication, depicted with the stunning front cover, the allure, drawing you into the intrigue and mystery. The title has many meanings, very fitting—reaching for happiness, trying to fit into what they feel society warrants, social pressures, what is truth, and what is a lie---false or real- influences, art forgery, right or wrong. An accurate depiction of the era. Is this glamorous and rebellious image of the flapper a true representation of the 1920s woman? The entrance of the free-spirited flapper, women began to take on a larger role in society and culture. However, in order to be a flapper, a woman had to have enough money and free time to play the part. Despite increasing opportunities and education, marriage often remained the goal of most young women (or their mother’s goal). Society encouraged women to believe that their economic security and social status depended on a successful marriage. A changing time in women’s rights. Some brave enough to step out on their own. The “new woman” was on her way! Infused with social influences, identity, and reinvention. Skillfully crafted, Brock makes her characters come alive on the page, with vivid settings---from the exciting art world, rich in history and charm. A nice contrast with two different personalities--Being true to oneself. A wonderful weekend escape- one of my favorite time periods. For fans of Hazel Gaynor, Beatriz Williams, Erika Robuck, Susan Meissner, and Kathleen Tessaro. Love the elegant cover. Have it on my desk to swoon over daily. Excited to meet a new talented southern author, and voice from Atlanta. With the author’s background, a perfect story--cannot wait to see what’s next. Looking forward to listening to the audio, as well narrated by Julia Whelan.
“There’s never a dull moment in this debut novel centered on an intriguing and tightly woven story line. Vera’s struggles are highly relatable, and the anguish she feels will resonate with countless readers. This surefire hit is certain to be beloved by fans of Beatriz Williams’s Along the Infinite Sea and Anton DiSclafani’s The After Party.” – Library Journal, starred "An absorbing tale of art, deception, romance, and forbidden desire." – Publishers Weekly "Told from the inside of the gilded cage, A Fine Imitation explores one Manhattan socialite's growing realization that who she's been brought up to be is increasingly at odds with who she is. Although set in a rarified corner of the early twentieth century, this lush, incisive debut novel explores the universal choice between doing what is right versus what is expected." - Miranda Beverly-Whittemore, New York Times bestselling author of Bittersweet "In A Fine Imitation, Amber Brock gives us a portrait of a woman and her times that shines with authenticity and charm. Women especially must read it--here we are, ladies, each and every one of us." -- Anne Rivers Siddons, New York Times bestselling author of Low Country "Rich in color and drama, A Fine Imitation is a sharp and absorbing period piece that skillfully portrays the tensions of social class and love. Fans of Amor Towles and Laura Moriarty will adore Amber Brock—a spellbinding new voice in historical fiction.” --Erika Robuck, national bestselling author of Hemingway's Girl
About the Author
Photo credit: Nina Parker Studios
AMBER BROCK teaches British literature at an all girls’ school in Atlanta.
She holds an MA from the University of Georgia and lives in Smyrna with her husband, also an English teacher, and their three rescue dogs. Read More