- Written By: Beatriz Williams
- Published By: Putnam an imprint of Penguin Publishing May 27, 2014
- Length: 448 pages
- Source: Publisher in consideration for an honest review
Vivian Schuyler is an independent young woman in New York City in 1964. She’s gone against her families wishes and is working and has her own apartment. This isn’t the usual life of a wealthy well bred privileged woman. Vivian receives a surprise package at the post office, and while waiting in line she meets a gorgeous man in blue scrubs. Dr Paul plays a nice role in her life..stay tuned. The package is an old suitcase, forwarded from her mother, the name Violet Schuyler is on the box. Thinking it just a first name error it’s been crossed through and sent to Vivian.
Vivian isn’t like most people, before she invades the privacy of this Violet Schuyler she asks her family if she’s related, a distant relative she may not know. To her shock her Aunt Julie confirms that Violet was an older sister to her father. Violet left New York to go to London in order to further he science studies and she then met and married a Dr. Walter Grant. She was last known to be in Berlin and she was a suspect in her husband’s murder in 1914, and running off with her lover.
Told in dual story lines, first person Vivian in 1964 and third person Violet 1911-1914, this story is gripping. Vivian is curious and knows that there is more to the story than the skimpy story she’s getting from the family. Once she opens the suitcase she discovers bits and pieces of a very different life.
Violet’s story tells the journey of a young woman with aspirations thought unbecoming to a woman of her times. She is bright and inquisitive and she is in awe of the very connected Dr. Grant. Once just his student and protege, she gets caught up in a whirlwind affair, the eventual marriage to Walter is at first a dream come true to Violet. Only later does she learn of his cruel sexual preferences and his affairs with many women. She stays because she sees it as her way to be involved in the science she loves so much.
When I was reading this book I couldn’t put it down, I loved the time setting, the characters and the search for what really happened to Violet. Vivian and Violet are so similar and yet they are about the same age, 22, 50 years apart. Sadly imagine how wanting to work and being more than just a pretty face are still seen the same after all that time. Is this a stigma we still put on beautiful but intelligent women today?
Vivian is so spunky and outspoken it’s easy to like her, and cheer for her unique ways of getting what she wants. Her up and down relationship with the aforementioned Dr. Paul was at times hilarious but still heartbreaking. Violet learns the hard way that men are not always what they appear. Just a warning that this book does include some very open sexual scenes.
I didn’t know that Beatriz Williams could again capture my heart with such a brilliant book, but I believe The Secret Life of Violet Grant is just as entertaining and educational as her best selling book of last summer, A Hundred Summers. I highly highly recommend this book.