Review: A Certain Age ISBN 9780062404954

Review: A Certain Age ISBN 9780062404954

Title: A Certain Age
Author: Beatriz Williams
ISBN: 9780062404954
Price: 33.50 CAD
Publisher: HarperCollins Canada

Review by Rosanna Haroutounian

Love, heroism, and scandal come together in Beatriz Williams’ new novel, A Certain Age. Set in New York City during the Roaring Twenties, the story details a love-triangle centred on the dashing and often mysterious Octavian Rofrano – a war hero and lover to the much older Theresa Marshall, who is ready to forego her status as a New York socialite and member of the upper class to marry Rofrano after her first marriage dissolves.

Their union is complicated by Theresa’s brother’s fiancée, Sophie Fortescue, who has newly arrived onto New York’s social scene, thanks to her father’s recent wealth.

The story is told from the perspectives of the two female leads: the young and adventurous, yet somewhat naïve, Sophie; and the more experienced, witty and crafty “Mrs. Theresa Marshall of Fifth Avenue and Southampton, Long Island,” as she is known.

Besides alternating between characters, the chapters also take readers to different times and places in their lives, and even include clippings from the fictional gossip column, Tit and Tattle. Details like this paint a vivid image of a time when flappers and speakeasies were commonplace.

The story also reflects the post-WWI atmosphere of economic boom and hope for the future, which often clashed with the old establishment and their conservative ideas.

Readers may start to resent Theresa Marshall for the deceitful manner in which she manages to get everything she wants, but will soon realize this is her way of dealing with the changing times. Like many others who came from “old money,” she is caught off-guard by how easily her social and economic power is slipping away with the growing prominence of a younger class with “new money” and new ways to spend it.

At the end though, the reader almost pities Theresa and the façade of wealth and power she struggles to uphold in order to remain relevant at a time when women were gaining a footing but still not on an equal playing field with their male counterparts.

The writing shows evidence that a great deal of research was done to reflect the changing language, fashions, and lifestyles of a period that left an important mark on American history and culture.

Williams mentions at the end of the book that the story is based on Richard Strauss’s opera Der Rosenkavalier. While the murder mystery storyline becomes a bit muddled within the other intricacies of the novel at some points, A Certain Age is an easy page-turner and strong addition to any historical-fiction lover’s reading list.

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