The Secret Life of Violet Grant

The Secret Life of Violet Grant

Large Print - 2014
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"Passion, redemption, and a battered old suitcase full of secrets: the New York Times-bestselling author of A Hundred Summers returns with another engrossing tale of lost love and female ambition that crosses generations. Manhattan, 1964. Vivian Schuyler, newly graduated from Bryn Mawr College, has recently defied the privilege of her storied old Fifth Avenue family to do the unthinkable for a budding Kennedy-era socialite: break into the Mad Men world of razor-stylish Metropolitan magazine. But when she receives a bulky overseas parcel in the mail, the unexpected contents draw her inexorably back into her family's past, and the hushed-over crime passionnel of an aunt she never knew, whose existence has been wiped from the record of history. Berlin, 1914. Violet Schuyler Grant endures her marriage to the philandering and decades-older scientist Dr. Walter Grant for one reason: for all his faults, he provides the necessary support to her liminal position as a young American female physicist in prewar Germany. The arrival of Dr. Grant's magnetic former student at the beginning of Europe's fateful summer interrupts this delicate detente. Lionel Richardson, a captain in the British Army, challenges Violet to escape her husband's perverse hold, and as the world edges into war and Lionel's shocking true motives become evident, Violet is tempted to take the ultimate step to set herself free and seek a life of her own conviction with a man whose cause is as audacious as her own. As the iridescent and fractured Vivian digs deeper into her aunt's past and the mystery of her ultimate fate, Violet's story of determination and desire unfolds, shedding light on the darkness of her years abroad and teaching Vivian to reach forwarrd with grace for the ambitious future--and the love--she wants most"-- Provided by publisher
Publisher: Waterville, Maine : Thorndike Press, 2014
Edition: Large print edition
ISBN: 9781410471611
Branch Call Number: LARGE PRINT FIC Williams, B 2014
Characteristics: 627 pages ; 23 cm
Large print


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Jan 28, 2018

It's been awhile since I read A Hundred Summers and Beatriz Williams' other books about the Schuyler family. I highly recommend that people read them together because Ms. Williams' doesn't do a great job of re-creating the familial connections.

In 1964, I was in high school. By the time I started working, women were proudly proclaiming "we've come a long way, baby!" We were kidding ourselves. Sexual harassment was far more rampant than any of us imagined. If we had, the #MeToo movement might have started 45 years earlier.

Violet Schuyler, a socialite who aspired to be a physicist, was sexually harassed by Dr. Walter Grant, the physics professor who offered her a position with his Institute in London before World War I. This part of the story is based on the actual work with atoms at the Cavendish Institute at Cambridge University. Dr. Grant is a sex addict who gets Violet pregnant and is forced to marry her by the university. The couple decamps to Berlin where Dr. and Mrs. Grant are colleagues with Albert Einstein and other nuclear physicists who ultimately decamp to the United States to create the atomic bomb, etc. during World War II.

Spoiler alert: Dr. Grant ends up shot days before the outbreak of WWI. Who did it?

Fifty years later, Violet's grand-niece Vivian is also sexually harassed by a college professor before she graduates from Bryn Mawr and takes a job at Metropolitan magazine doing what many college educated women did back in the day: we schlepped coffee for our demanding bosses hoping to graduate into the management ranks without having to engage in the world's oldest profession as well as the one we had studied so hard to master.

Without the advantage of Google, Vivian unravels the secrets of her aunt's suitcase.

The Secret Life of Violet Grant is a delicious blend of history, mystery, and romance.

DBRL_ANNEG Sep 21, 2016

This book is made up of two storylines. The author does a great job of creating unique voices in each story. Vivian, who resides in 1964 NYC, is career driven, has whip-smart dialogue, and loads of charm. Violet, the great aunt she never knew about, is quieter, but equally smart and driven as she pursues a scientific career in 1914 Berlin. The mystery lies in just what happened to Violet, who apparently murdered her husband and ran off with her lover (or so the gossip goes). Vivian uses lot of resources (quite impressive to this librarian who is so used to finding so much through Google these days) and in the end the pieces come together. With a few twists thrown in to keep things interesting!

The book leans a bit more heavily on the romance (which some readers may not go for), but it ultimately plays an important role in the story.

Readers who enjoy this book will be happy to learn that it's the first in a trilogy.

athompson10 Sep 07, 2016

Meh. I like Beatriz Williams for her frothy, fun historical romances. This one was hard to get into, and the twists and turns in Violet's relationship with Lionel were very unrealistic, as was Vivian's long circuitous romance with Doctor Paul. I read this to round out the Schuyler sisters' stories but found it the most trying of them all.

Jun 20, 2016

Book 1 of the Schuyler sisters starts with Vivian getting a unknown manuscript in the mail

May 18, 2016

This being the third Beatriz Williams book for me, it was the hardest to get into. A Hundred Summers and Tiny Little Things being the other two. All three switch back and forth between two different time periods as the stories unfold. Obviously I liked the first two Williams books enough to pursue more of her writing. The Secret Life started out slow but definitely picked up after about the first 50 pages. I was glad I stuck with it, though the story set in the 60's didn't hold my attention nearly as much as the one set in 1914. Overall, would recommend.

Chapel_Hill_SarahW Mar 01, 2016

The story jigjags between 1964 and 1914, both timelines have interesting, strong, clever female characters. I wasn't sure if I'd like the back and forth, but Williams carries it off with grace, premonition, and bittersweet fore/after-shadowing. If you like your historical fiction with lots of romance and a bit of mystery this ones for you!

Sep 24, 2015

My first book club book that I did not finish. I did not like any of the characters, they lacked believability for me. The chatter of "Mumsie and "Dadums" was annoying. And the constant smoking. Ok I get it, everyone smoked back then.
I frankly did not care about what the mysterious suit-case was all about. The love interests were boring. I so tried to finish it.

Aug 12, 2015

Whilst her writing is amazing, I just could not get into the book - found just a little too tedious to give it more time. Writing great, but story not.

May 14, 2015

Vivian Schuyler, newly graduated from college in 1964, is working as a fact checker at Metropolitan magazine in New York City. She receives a package that turns out to be the suitcase of a family member she never knew about. Violet Schuyler Grant moved to Europe in 1912 and married a professor who ended up in Berlin on the eve of World War I. As Vivian works to unearth the details about her aunt's life, she also finds herself in Europe. This novel is well-paced and alternates between 1914 and 1964 as the author explores both Vivian's and Violet's lives. The twists and surprises continue right up to the end of the novel.

martha_w Mar 07, 2015

Beatriz Williams is a bit of a mixed bag for me, as authors go -- A Hundred Summers is a really, really fun old-timey beach read, but I found her first novel, Overseas, annoying (if highly readable, and still fun) for a variety of reasons. And I wasn't sure how I felt about this book until I was about halfway through. It's split between 1964 and 1914 (a tactic Williams has employed in all of her novels, and which I have to say she is quite good at), following Violet Grant in 1914 Berlin and her great-niece, Vivian Schuyler, in 1960s New York. I wouldn't be surprised to learn a lot of people dislike this book because of Vivan's character, who is very brash and bold and wisecracking, and she's annoying at times. However, I thought Violet's 1914 story was extremely compelling -- and has a GREAT, really wonderful ending -- and even if the 1960s storyline couldn't quite hold the same interest for me (and Williams, as ever, suffers from making too many of her characters fall instantly in love), it was still highly entertaining, and Vivian grew on me. I read the last 150 pages of the book in one sitting. I don't think it's for everyone -- but I really enjoyed it.

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