Who doesn’t love the 1920’s?? I for one am eagerly awaiting the Miss Fisher movie, mostly for the outfits. A Fine Imitation gives us all that glamour, wrapped up in a time of great changes in American culture, from main character Vera’s college days in 1913 at Vassar, through the war, to her stuffy life as a 1920’s trophy wife.
Not offensive to women = 1/1 pt
Features a woman as the main protagonist and/or supporting character = 2/2 pts
Passes the Bechdel-Wallace test = 3/3 pts
Passes all. The story follows Vera as she matures, following her youthful mistakes in flashbacks to her college days, and how she battles with expectations of society as an adult.
Artistic and/or Entertaining = 3/4 pts
While I like the 1920’s and Gilded Age setting, that could only carry me so far. This novel lacked an oomph I was hoping for. Based on the blurb, I thought we’d see a lot more of Vera acting bad! That’s really what I was in the mood for I guess.
Travel Europe with the irrepressible Monty in The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue
The story deals with Vera’s regrets for how she behaved as a young woman. Her time at Vassar is slowly revealed through flashbacks, including her friendship with vivacious Bea. In the present day, Vera is estranged from Bea and unhappy with her life, perfect as it seems from the outside. When a mysterious artist arrives to paint a mural, Vera is forced to confront her choices and ask herself if she’s truly living the life she wants.
I may have given full points in this section, if not for the fact that I just read a book with an almost identical plot and character arc! (Longbourn, reviewed here). I think Longbourn did its job better, so A Fine Imitation felt extra thin. While the novel was solid, it lacked a little something for me. For example, Longbourn did a better job bringing the visceral reality of the war to the page.
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Above and Beyond General Media = 2/5 pts
I didn’t give full points here either. As I explained above, the story was a little lackluster for me and basically its merits included a non-offensive love story, a complex female lead, a positive female friendship. Sadly, this is all it takes to be above and beyond in traditional publishing. But nothing about the story really wowed me, and in terms of inclusiveness, there wasn’t much to speak of. I did like Vera’s relationship with her mother. The generational tension felt real, and mirrored the changes that were occurring in America from Vera’s mother’s time to Vera’s.
So in conclusion, this book wasn’t for me, but that’s not to say it was terrible. If you like 1920’s aesthetic and want a non-offensive romance about women breaking the rules, A Fine Imitation still may be for you!
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