I recently read two new historical fiction novels that are simply splendid. They are both set in the United States in the early part of the twentieth century, they both have women protagonists, and they both have themes related to wealth and power. Those gilded fortunes!
The first novel, The Magnolia Palace by Fiona Davis, is mostly set in 1919 in Manhattan, when millionaires lived in mansions facing Central Park. Lillian, an artist’s model down on her luck, needs to find new work fast, and through a fluke ends up working as private secretary to the domineering Helen Clay Frick at the Frick mansion in Manhattan. There’s a lot of drama, twisted family dynamics, and art history in the story. There are secrets and hidden documents, which add suspense to the plot. I enjoy fiction set in this period very much, and the story inspired me to look up Audrey Munson, the original supermodel, and also Helen Clay Frick. I would read another book by this author for sure.
The second novel, The Magnificent Lives of Marjorie Post by Allison Pataki, follows Marjorie Post’s career for decades, from her childhood in Michigan to her career as a society hostess in New York to building mansions and hospitals in Florida, and even more. I really enjoyed this story of a historical figure I knew nothing about until I read this book… I now plan to visit Hillwood next time I go to D.C.! Marjorie Post did so much with her life and her fortune, building new houses, building new hospitals, building art collections… this story is a fascinating look at her life, choices, and relationships. Some parts are a little glossed over, but there is so much included that that’s no wonder. It’s told in first person from Marjorie’s point of view, and her voice rings true throughout the decades of her life that are shown in this story.
I particularly enjoy fiction set in this time period. Other historical fiction novels by Fiona Davis and Allison Pataki include:
The Accidental Empress by Allison Pataki
Sisi: Empress on her Own by Allison Pataki
The Chelsea Girls by Fiona Davis
The Lions of Fifth Avenue by Fiona Davis