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Clara and Mr. Tiffany    by Susan Vreeland order for
Clara and Mr. Tiffany
by Susan Vreeland
Order:  USA  Can
Random House, 2012 (2011)
Hardcover, Softcover, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

I never questioned how Tiffany lamps were made. Just accepted them and thoroughly enjoyed their beauty. Now, after reading Clara and Mr. Tiffany by Susan Vreeland, I am overwhelmed with the creativity that went into the construction of these works of art.

The novel, based on fact, opens in 1893 as Louis Comfort Tiffany makes 'his debut with a luminous exhibition of innovative stained glass windows that he hopes will earn him a place on the international artistic stage'. Tiffany, concerned with his own reputation, bypasses the chance to share some of the attention with his employees. In particular, Clara Driscoll, head of his women's division. Clara, who has had the death of her young husband to contend with, is a shining star in his company.

Leaded glass lamp shades were her creation, for which Tiffany took full credit. In those times, women were not yet recognized in the work force but Tiffany realized that men's fingers were normally too large to handle most of the finer work of his studio. He was a master of organization and desperately in love with the use of color.

The story of Clara and Mr. Tiffany rests on Clara's shoulders. If you wanted to make your own leaded-glass lamp shades, this novel would give you the know-how. With incredible research, Vreeland has made the times and Clara's studio come alive - it's totally fascinating. New York City also plays a big part in this depiction of an unusual and strong woman. Life wasn't easy for women at that period of time. My ire rose as I read of the harassment the women of Tiffany's received from the male employees who were afraid their jobs were in jeopardy from women who were more than proficient in their work.

Life has never been easy for women in the work force, but to have it laid out as it is in this brilliant novel sets one to thinking - and feeling outrage. Clara and Mr. Tiffany is a work of art in itself. Don't miss it.

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