She Walks in Beauty by Siri Mitchell

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“This table is a pigeon trap. A dozen different forks and knives and spoons. Four different goblets. All of them just waiting to be knocked over or misapplied and mishandled. It’s a wonder anyone is ever tempted to eat.”

I adore this book. I know the title sounds a little bit cheesy, but let me explain. This novel is set during the late 1890’s, where debutante balls and the like were a big deal. Usually, when a young woman (aged 16-21) from an aristocratic or upper-class family reached the age of maturity, she was able to “debut”, a sort of rite of passage for the young woman as she steps into the glitz of parties, balls, and upper-class society. But the other purpose for her debut was to find a husband from a select few of her same class.

A lot of ritual goes into her debut. Corsets and dresses to be fitted, manners to be perfected, dances to be learned. Which is why this book was given the title – she was supposed to look like a high society woman, and her future was built upon the success of her debutante “season”.  Mitchell did a fantastic job researching the historical setting of the book and bringing the reader into the story. The writing was really well done; it was detailed, not to the point of boredom, but was enough to give you a taste of what everything was like for the young girls preparing for their debut.

The characters were wonderfully developed. To me, the characters are really what makes a story good. I also loved that the novel was written in first person, so you were able to sympathize with Clara and her evil corsets. Clara was excellent and witty and funny. I enjoyed reading about her journey a lot throughout the book.

Just a few little things to finish out this review. This book made me glad I was not born in the late 1800’s. I could not have handled those awful corsets. I enjoyed the plot twists. While they aren’t always necessary, they do add a fun bit of excitement to books. I also really loved that the reader get’s closure. You know what happens to the main characters in the end. I can’t stand when an author leaves a stand-alone book unfinished.

I enjoyed the book and the new view it gave me about high-society in the late 1800’s New York.

If you’re interested in learning more about debutant balls and it’s origin, click here. It will open in a new window and is very informative.

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