As I was gathering up my pictures of the various settings in The English Wife to share with you, it occurred to me that it might be fun to do a bunch of If You Likes to cover the various places involved in the book.
So, since this is my Gilded Age book, it made sense to start out with Gilded Age New York. In subsequent weeks, I’ll move on to late Victorian London, Belle Epoque Paris, and the Hudson Valley.
But, for the moment, let’s pop back in time to Manhattan circa 1870-1910….
If you like books set in Gilded Age New York, you’ll probably like…
— Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth. How could we not start with Wharton, the archetypal author of New York’s Gilded Age? Wharton takes us through Lily Bart’s desperate struggle to remain a member of the social set to which she was born, highlighting all the idiosyncrasies and hypocrisies of New York’s claustrophobic upper class.
— Jack Finney’s Time and Again. Who doesn’t dream of being able to step back in time? Maybe that’s why this book is such a perennial favorite: an exercise into what might happen if you could actually hop over into the New York of 1882, examining the past with modern (well, sort of modern– 1970) eyes.
— Sara Donati’s The Gilded Hour, the story of two female doctors, cousins, moving between the orphanages and ballrooms of 1880s New York.
— Caleb Carr’s The Alienist, an iconic thriller set in 1896 New York (the same time period as The English Wife), as Dr. Lazslo Kreizler, the “alienist”, attempts to find a serial killer.
— Louis Auchincloss’s East Side Story. This one is cheating a bit, because it begins before and stretches well past the Gilded Age– but it’s a deft and insightful look at New York’s elite and how they became what they are.
— Beverly Swerling’s City of Promise, which takes an intimate look at New York’s post-Civil War boom through the eyes of an entrepreneur who makes his fortune through pioneering apartment living and a young woman with a dodgy past.
— on the mystery side, there’s Stefanie Pintoff’s Simon Ziele series, starting with In the Shadow of Gotham, about a detective solving crimes in 1905 New York.
— and then there’s The Forgotten Room, the novel I co-wrote with Karen White and Beatriz Williams. The book takes place in three time periods, starting off in the 1890s, as a young woman goes to work as a maid in an Upper East Side mansion. But what is her real relationship to the house and its inhabitants?
While I was writing this post, I stumbled upon an an earlier If You Like post I had written on the same topic. There are some overlaps, but not as many as you would expect! So you can check here for more recommendations….
Which are your favorite Gilded Age New York novels?
(I’ll be sharing some Gilded Age New York non-fiction books in the fall.)