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A Violet Season

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A mother’s choices in a time of crisis threaten the one person she means to protect — her only daughter — and force her to make the boldest move of her life.

The violet industry is booming in 1898, and a Hudson Valley farm owned by the Fletcher family is turning a generous profit for its two oldest brothers. But Ida Fletcher, married to the black sheep youngest brother, has taken up wet nursing to help pay the bills, and her daughter, Alice, has left school to work. As they risk losing their share of the farm, the two women make increasingly great sacrifices for their family’s survival, sacrifices that will set them against one another in a lifelong struggle for honesty and forgiveness. Vivid and compelling, A Violet Season is the story of an unforgettable mother-daughter journey in a time when women were just waking to their own power and independence.

272 pages, Paperback

First published July 10, 2012

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About the author

Kathy Leonard Czepiel

4 books52 followers
Kathy Leonard Czepiel is the author of A Violet Season (Simon & Schuster), named one of the best books of 2012 by Kirkus Reviews. Kathy's free newsletter, Better Book Clubs, appears twice weekly on Substack at https://betterbookclubs.substack.com/..., and her videos for book clubs appear occasionally on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCkaK.... Her short fiction has appeared in numerous literary journals, including Cimarron Review, Indiana Review, and CALYX, and she is the recipient of a 2012 creative writing fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. Kathy taught writing at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut for 18 years and has written more than 500 feature stories for the New Haven online magazine Daily Nutmeg.

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5 stars
71 (17%)
4 stars
193 (46%)
3 stars
127 (30%)
2 stars
20 (4%)
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4 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 85 reviews
Profile Image for Connie G.
1,691 reviews451 followers
April 4, 2014
Violets were popular flowers in the late 1800s, and the two older Fletcher brothers owned a violet farm in the Hudson Valley. Their younger brother, Frank Fletcher, worked as a farmhand for them since he lost his inheritance in some youthful wrongdoing. In addition to working at the violet farm and doing household chores, Frank's wife, Ida, has been wet nursing to make extra money. Desperate for cash to pay back his brothers, Frank took their daughter Alice to New York City to work. Alice has not been answering her mother's letters. What happened to Alice and what is Frank hiding?

The mother-daughter relationship between Ida and Alice is an important part of the story. The role of women at the turn of the century when women had limited rights and opportunities is also explored in the book. After the first few chapters introduce the characters and the situation, the book picks up its pace into an engaging read. The author has done extensive historical research and weaves historical details into the storyline. The main heartbreaking story was framed by an interview of Alice in her later, happier years when she recognizes Ida's strength. This gives closure to the difficulties in their mother-daughter relationship. "A Violet Season" is highly recommended to readers who enjoy historical fiction.
Profile Image for Rebecca Huston.
1,061 reviews157 followers
April 20, 2015
This is a compelling novel set in upstate New York at the turn of the twentieth century. There's family rivalry, lost love, and a hardscrabble life. Despite the depressing aspects of the story, I found this to be a very carefully researched and constructed novel with plenty of human interest to keep the reader motivated in finding out what happens next. There is a warning however, some of the story is rather dark and frank in content, so it is not for squeamish readers. All in all, this was a very good first novel and worth the effort to find and read it. Very much recommended with four stars.

For the longer review, please go here:
Profile Image for Vera Marie.
Author 1 book17 followers
September 12, 2012
It took a while–-maybe 35 pages–-for A Violet Season to capture me. But once I was hooked, I could not put it down. Kathy Leonard Czepiel takes her time setting the stage for this historical novel, introducing all of the family members on a violet farm near Rhinebeck, New York in the late 19th century.

The conflict between husband and wife (Frank and Ida) lies nearly buried underneath their daily routines of hard work on the farm. Besides all the hand-laundry, cooking, cleaning, vegetable gardening and helping with the violet harvests, Ida takes in babies to wet nurse. Although her husband is silent and authoritarian, it takes his truly unforgivable action involving their daughter Alice before Ida understands how oppressed she has been and to begin to believe that she might be entitled to make choices about her life. And she will do anything to save her daughter from danger.

This engrossing novel builds its themes on a framework of minute details about a woman’s life. The feel of the sewing machine pedal, the smell of illness and herbal cures , the texture of dried laundry on the line, the bone-tiredness of a work day after a night spent with a screaming baby. Czepiel has researched deeply and well, but even better, conveys those details as a living background for Ida’s and Alice’s lives. (You can read more about the author’s approach at A Violet Season‘s webpage.)

The beautiful and fragile violets serve as a perfect image for the women whose lives were at the mercy of others. (Perhaps it would not be stretching a point to say that the thorny roses grew in popularity as women learned how to protect and care for themselves?)

Read more of this review at A Traveler's Library .
Profile Image for Meadow.
23 reviews5 followers
April 27, 2014
I love books that teach me something, while catching me up in a story that makes me keep reading. This book taught me about quite a few subjects I had no idea about. How were violets harvested and sold in the time when giving your sweetheart a violet to wear was the fashion? How did women who lived in the 1890s feed their babies if they were unable to produce breast milk? (I had this problem with my newborn because I had severe anemia, but we have so many formula options in this age). What kind of choices were there for women in that time? Read and learn!

Some of the drama between the characters seemed a little far-fetched, or at least not well explained enough for me to believe. But the mother/daughter conflicts were painfully realistic and even had a unique way of showing each perspective as valid. It is a fairly dark story because of the difficult family circumstances, and a some very disturbing scenes in a brothel.

I strongly recommend this book to people interested in women's roles in history, traditional farming, and historical novels in general. It's also a helpful read for those who like digging into family interactions. Enjoy!
9 reviews2 followers
August 20, 2012
I loved this book. The story centers around a mother and daughter in turn of the century 1900 upstate New York. It is wonderfully written with rich details. The plight of being a woman during those times was also a theme and reading this made me grateful for all the freedoms that we enjoy today.
Profile Image for Mel.
750 reviews117 followers
January 31, 2013

Steeped in the rich history of pre-turn of the century violet farming, A Violet Season, explores the conflicts and pressures imposed on the Fletcher family, Hudson Valley violet farmers, who are trying to survive on a meager agrarian income.

Patriarch, Frank Fletcher has been relegated to a farm manager by his property owning brothers, and is bitter and angry at his demotion. His wife,Ida, in addition to working the farm and greenhouses, also works as a “wet nurse” – nursing other women’s babies in an attempt to earn additional income to keep their family solvent. Their children, Alice, Reuben and Oliver, all teenagers, are doing their part to help their family.

But Frank isn’t satisfied with their efforts or their monetary return – so to maximize the earning power of his family, Frank expels Alice from their home and forces her to work in a brothel on the Lower East side of Manhattan.

What proceeds from Frank’s decision is a family wrecked by lies, abuse, and exploitation.

What initially was a novel about the discord between the Fletcher family, really evolved into a novel about the inequality and subjugation of women.

Author, Kathy Leonard Czepiel, does a heroic job in casting the plight of the Fletcher women. It is crystal clear that in 1898, neither Ida nor Alice had many options outside of their current roles as mother and marriageable-aged daughter.

But the evil by which Frank treats his daughter, all in the name of money, was horrific. I haven’t hated a character in a book so much, since the dad in The Poisonwood Bible.

This was a tough book for me – the author’s prose, story thread, and characters were credible and authentic. But, when you spend so much of your reading time cursing a particular character and wanting to wring his neck, it’s hard to see the overall scope of the novel.

Fortunately, the author’s ending helped soothe the volatile feelings I was experiencing, and gave me hope for both Ida and Alice and their future.

A richly narrated book – but not one that leaves a pleasant feeling afterward.

Thanks to Ms. Czepiel (see-peel) for allowing me to read her novel.
Profile Image for Connie Mayo.
Author 2 books50 followers
December 14, 2012
Enjoyable historical fiction, and the plot had suspense. Plus you get to learn about the violet business - who knew that was a business?

As sometimes happens, I think this (female) author has painted the female characters (the mother Ida and the daughter Alice) very well, but less so with the male characters (the father Frank and also Joe). Since you do get inside the heads of the two female characters, that does give the author more room to explore their emotions, but I didn't always understand the reasoning behind the actions and choices of the men. So that is part of the reason for four stars instead of five, but the two female characters make this book worth reading for sure.

I have to add that the teaser for this book is misleading - "A mother's choice in a time of crisis... forces her to make the boldest move of her life". Melodramatic for sure, and not really representative of most of the book. And yet the real story is a good one, so I think the marketing department just went off in the wrong direction on this one.
Profile Image for Michelle.
77 reviews
March 7, 2013
Although I don't think this book is a 5 star book, I'm going to give it 5 stars because I loved reading about the Hudson Valley! It was a lovely book. I enjoyed learning about the history...historical fiction is a great way to learn about our past in a non-boring way. Thank you Kathy Leonard Czepiel for writing a facinating, well written book. I look forward to your next book.
Profile Image for Susan.
23 reviews
September 17, 2021
What a wonderful novel about a time in New York's Hudson Valley, where I grew up, that I knew nothing about. I stayed up way too late for the mother of a child about to start kindergarten, who should have being doing a million other things to prepare for that big step, but couldn't stop reading this book til it was done. What a treat! I look forward to many more from this talented writer.
Profile Image for Eileen Charbonneau.
Author 25 books52 followers
May 20, 2012
Heartrending and compelling. Wonderfully detailed, with pitch-perfect scenes. Details of late 19th century life wonderfully rendered. Flawed but loving relationship between a mother and daughter was my favorite aspect of a multi-dimentional novel.
Profile Image for Antonia.
96 reviews1 follower
June 4, 2019
I am from the Hudson Valley, and Ms Czepiel got the setting dead on. I love reading a book and picking up local place names and descriptions, and hearing familiar family names used for characters. As a local historian, the author got the period details of 1898 right. The violet industry was a brief but intense business in the area. She researched how it was done, and deftly inserted that into the story. Even details on doing laundry, or the feel of sewing on a treadle sewing machine, added to the setting. The characters were compelling, especially Ida and her daughter Alice. The portrait o the two women's struggles for survival in a time when women had few rights is clearly portrayed. I liked the way the story was framed as an oral history done in 1972.

The plot leads to New York City, and might get a bit too graphic for some readers. Again, the attention to detail and the historical research done was impeccable.

I didn't like the ending. I wanted it to go a different way. The author also seemed to be in a bit of a rush to wrap things up.
Profile Image for Melissa T.
566 reviews30 followers
July 28, 2017
This book was very slow to start and didn't really hold my attention in the beginning. Once it got going, I felt that there was a big lack of character development, and that the story itself could have been better developed. The main reason for Alice's father's actions isn't even explained until over halfway through the book, just hinted at. And many of the rest of the character relationships are strained which makes the interactions toward the end all that much more unbeliveable.

This is a painful story to get through once you realize how trapped both Alice and her mother were, by Frank, and by society's views of women at that time. Everything wraps up too neatly at the end as wlel, which makes me feel as though Alice's pain was for nothing.
147 reviews
July 4, 2019
Ida and husband Frank work on a violet farm in the Hudson Valley region of New York State. Struggling financially Ida takes on the added responsibility of nursing babies for women unable to do so. Unknown to Ida, Frank takes their oldest daughter Alice, to New York City to work as a housemaid in a house of ill repute. The ladies of the house take a liking to Alice and try to protect her from the seedier side of life in the house. Growing concerned as she has not heard from Alice in some time, Ida decides to travel to the city to try to find her daughter. The two are reconnected and thus they begin a new adventure. There is so much emotion in 5his wonderfully written story that you may find yourself cheering for some characters and wishing others would just go away
Profile Image for Maria Moyser.
18 reviews
July 26, 2022
I thought about four stars, since some aspects of the writing could have had more nuance in places, but chose five stars because I enjoyed reading historical fiction from this era set nearby in the Hudson Valley and learning something about violet farming. My grandmother's name was Violet and that was the inspiration for choosing this book. The book holds many reminders to be grateful for society's progress.
Profile Image for Jocelyn Leigh.
107 reviews16 followers
June 21, 2019
"Society had assigned women a single wage-earning occupation: getting a husband."
"A man who cared only for the future of his sons was a danger to his daughters."
"Your best revenge is to refuse to play the part they've given you.
Profile Image for Athena Hailey.
75 reviews1 follower
August 25, 2017
Took atleast 20 pages to get my attention, but after that i couldn't bring myself to put it down. Great quick read.
264 reviews2 followers
February 11, 2018
History of life in the late 1800s in the Hudson Valley -- on a violet farm-- interesting.
three stars due to lack of depth in the plot and characters.
An easy read - and worth the read.
Profile Image for Patty Mccormick.
161 reviews6 followers
September 30, 2013
This book was released in 2012 and yes I read it as a real book, a paperback. I love the cover. I love anything purple and my birth month flower is the violet. It is Kathy Czepiel’s first book, hopefully not the last!! This book is a great historical fiction book set in the late 1800′s. It is a story that revolves around the Fletcher family and the family business of violet raising in the Hudson River Valley. We get a look at how hard the women worked in their everyday lives.

Alice has quit school to work on the farm. Life on the farm is full of hardships and they never have enough money. Alice’s mother earns money as a wet-nurse. When Alice is sent away by her father, Frank, he states she is in the city working at a factory. Her mother, Ida smells a rat, but doesn’t know what has happened to her daughter. Where has he sent her? What is she doing? Is she okay? These are basic questions that her mother can’t answer. After her friend Joe receives a disturbing letter from Alice, Ida and Joe go to look for Alice. What will they find? What horrible thing has happened to Alice, to make her think Joe won’t want her anymore? The truth is heartbreaking and rocks the foundation of Ida and Frank’s marriage. Frank is not the person Ida thought he was.

This time period is one where women were beginning to become independent. They had limited options as far as work and employment. This book shows us how attitudes and treatment of women over the years have undergone changes. Women of the 1800s were such strong people and had to endure so much.

The book is well written and thought out. It is told from Ida and Alice’s viewpoints, but it is not confusing. The book contains excerpts from an interview with an older and more experienced Alice that give insights to the chapters and how she felt about things. I really enjoyed this book. There are a lot of issues packed into this novel. I give it 5 out of 5 stars.
Profile Image for Lindsay Heller.
Author 4 books10 followers
October 6, 2014
This book was really interesting and thanks to my dear friend for buying it and carting it all the way to Switzerland to give it to me. And my apologies for taking a year to read it. I have long been interested in the Hudson Valley area, but didn't know the history of violet growers working out of the area at the turn of the century. This book deals with violets, but mostly with the growers.

Ida Fletcher's husband Frank has been under the thumb of his brothers since a mistake he made in his youth. Instead of an invested share in the Fletcher violet farm he is paid laborer's wages and made to live in the tenant house until he can afford to pay of a debt. To help, Ida works as a wet nurse. Their marriage has not been perfect, but has been relatively happy. But when Frank's brothers move to promote the oldest son without any consideration for their rogue brother Frank's desperation leads him to a series of harrowing choices that effect his family disastrously. In the end it's clear that it's the women of this family who will pay the highest prices.

This is a relatively slight novel, at 250 pages, so it didn't take very long to read. And I was engaged with the characters. But it wasn't really until about halfway through that I started wondering what would come next. Much of this meanders a little, but helped to establish this cast of characters. The violets are a backdrop, but they are not what this story is about. Mostly, it's a story about a mother and a daughter and their struggles to exist properly in a patriarchal world. I would recommend this, I think it will stay with me a bit, but I would only do so to people who were interested in these topics and time period.
Profile Image for Khris Sellin.
545 reviews5 followers
November 1, 2012
Set in the fictional town of Underwood in the Hudson Valley in 1898, this is the story of Ida and Frank Fletcher and their family. Frank works in the violet industry, a family business run by his older brothers. Frank should have been in partnership with them but a misstep he made as a youth lost money for the family and has made him the black sheep, and now he is working to pay off his debt to them. Ida works alongside him there and takes in extra work to bring in income, and now has become a wet nurse to supplement their income even further. The family has made many sacrifices, but after more than 20 years, the debt has apparently still not been paid, and now they're faced with the threat of losing their home.

Their only daughter, Alice, is forced to leave school so she can find work to help out too. And then her father, Frank, does something unforgivable in his desperation to come up with needed cash. This is where the story takes a dark turn, and begins to get interesting.

Interesting historical look at the violet industry of the late 1800s and early 1900s in the Hudson Valley. It was apparently a huge money-making business back then. Who knew?
She also focuses on the burgeoning suffragette movement and how women were just beginning to feel their way around gaining freedom from financial dependence on men. I just wish she would have focused a little more on that and how it related to the women at the center of this story. Things seemed to kind of fizzle out at the end, too. But all in all, I thought it was an entertaining read.
Profile Image for Carla.
241 reviews
October 31, 2012
Darn, I think I'm a fan of historical fiction -- who woulda thunk? With the Nor'easter, I had the time to read this book in large chunks and savor the narrative. The prose was smooth and effectively transported me to the late 1800s violet industry in the Hudson Valley. The Poughkeepsie News blurbs and an interview with a Ms. Vreeland for The Women of Albany County about growing up during the violet heyday set the tone and hooked me. (Who even knew there was a violet heyday? Though, those repressed Victorians loved communicating through flowers.) The story is broken into parts which are designated by different parts of the violet growing cycle (one of several clever details the author included in the book). The narrative pivots on an extended violet growing family and one particular mother daughter pair. Despite the booming violet business, times are hard for one arm of the family. A woman's place in the home/family is brought into question and her need to work to contribute to a struggling household creates tensions that lead to remarkable decisions. Eventually, the mother daughter pair are separated and the mother never forgives herself for this. The author certainly did her research and this made for a compelling read about an interesting sliver of this part of the country's history. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and cannot wait to discuss it with my book group.
Profile Image for Alexandra Grabbe.
Author 6 books4 followers
October 1, 2012
Anyone who likes historical fiction should get a copy of Kathy Leonard Czepiel’s first novel. A Violet Season transported me a century back in time. The story is set in New York State, north of Poughkeepsie, where I attended college. I had no idea the area once produced violets, or even that violets were fashionable. Czepiel’s late 1890s felt spot on. Ida, the heroine, raises her many children on a farm. Her husband Frank’s family is in the violet business. To supplement income, Ida takes in babies as a wet nurse. The story gets complicated when Frank decides it’s time for their eldest daughter to help out with his debt and sends her off to the big city without sharing this decision with his wife. Is she working in a factory as he tells the mother? I read the book fast, in two days, and reveled in the lyrical details of the landscape and everyday life on a violet farm. Here’s one example I loved: “the jeweled light cast through stain glass church windows.” What did not seem real to me was the description of the infants Frank brings home from New York City. Are we really to believe they made the two and one-half hour journey without a whimper, let alone a good bit of screaming? Since I was reading in a household with a newborn, a lack of crying seemed totally unrealistic and really made me hesitate in handing out stars. But if you are able to overlook this fact, A Violet Season is a most enjoyable read.
Profile Image for Michelle.
2,406 reviews15 followers
November 12, 2013
The story takes place in the late 1800's in the Hudson River valley. The Fletcher family has a violet farming business. The story revolves around Ida who is married to the younger brother of the family, Frank, and her teenaged daughter, Alice. Frank is the black sheep of the family for a prior transgression that hurt the family. His penance to pay back what he owes the family is both monetary and in no ownership of the family business. In order to get more money, he pushes his wife to work as a wet nurse, and wants his daughter, Alice to find a job. He increases pressure on Ida when he brings home an additional baby. Unlike her previous wet nursing assignments, she knows little to nothing about the family of the baby. When he takes Alice to the city for a trip and returns without her, he tells his wife that he has gotten her a factory job. While Ida tries to communicate with her daughter, she receives little response. Alice's friend, Joe, also tries to reach out to her, and when he discovers the truth of her circumstances and comes to Ida, she must make a life changing decision for her family. I found the historical period to be interesting, but had a hard time connecting with the characters, even though I felt for their plight. The story was well written and gave an interesting perspective on the time.
Profile Image for Giovenna.
6 reviews
May 12, 2015
I picked up this book out of curiosity going on with the title and book cover design. I would always assume that no such publishers would put such lovely efforts on the cover if the story wouldn’t be as charming as the cover would be. Hence, I gave it a try.

There’re lots of reason to like Ms. Czepiel’s creation. The more-or-less 250 paged book was filled with things seemingly fully imagined life during the closure of the 19th century.

From the story of an unfair land inheritance between the Fletcher brothers, the daily life of the violet farmers, up until the women’s struggle for their right to do what they want in life, were finely written up until the last pages.

What I liked the most in the book was the inbetween-supposedly-should be-real interview of Alice Vreeland. It made the whole reading experience refreshing.

There are just some disturbing parts though, that I hadn’t seen coming. I’ll let you find out when you get hold of the book yourself. It made me frown a little bit but it’s still a great story all-in-all.

The best character would be Ida Fletcher. The hardworking mother of four and additional babies that came in her life while married with a man like his husband was a greatly imagined character for the novel.

The book turned out prettier than it looked like. But I think I should stop judging books by their covers now.
Profile Image for [S] Bibliophage.
950 reviews858 followers
May 18, 2017
My Rating: 4.5

I was not expecting that I will finished this novel within 24 hours. This well-written historical fiction novel is really a page turner. I was also quite surprised that Czepiel did her research well about the Violet industry, wet nursing and prostitution during that era.

I just hate how women were treated during those years. We are like second class citizen because the way some men value us. The characters of Alice and her mother Ida standing from their own battles shows how women could be as strong as or maybe tougher than men.

I was just sort of sad that Joe and Alice didn't end up together. I had high hopes that Joe will not think of Alice as a wh*re just because she ended up as a housemaid in a brothel. But I guess I put too much expectation on Joe's character. There was no closure on their story because Joe isn't open-minded as I was expecting him to be. If only they could have talk on what happened, maybe Joe will also left the town with them and could've married Alice. In spite of that, Alice had a happy marriage with Pieter and had a fortunate life when they left their old town.

If you are looking for something that deals with women empowerment, I highly recommend this novel because it depicts how women endures yet they survive and succeed in the end.
Profile Image for Christine.
531 reviews9 followers
November 13, 2014
An enjoyable story about a mother and her children and a controlling, violent husband and father.
Ida is the mother of several children, and works as a wet nurse to make more money. Her hubby Frank is a mean man who behaves musteriously. Ida never seems strong enough to confront him, even after he brings home a baby and has no information on it's parents. Then when he goes to New York for a festival highlighting the violets they grow in a family business, he shows up at home with another random baby and without his 16 year old daughter. NOW Ida starts getting suspicious, but she still says nothing. Even after she never receives returned letters from her daughter.
It cuts to show what happens to their daugher Alice the 5 months she is gone. Atlast Ida goes to the city and with the help of a young man brings her home. Alice holds a terrible grudge against her mother for the rst of their lives. How could they not know enough to communicate their feelings?
I found the dynamic frustrating at times. I hate when characters are constantly lying to each other. (Thats why I find Jane the Virgin refreshing, she never lies and it makes a better story as they can move on)
415 reviews4 followers
March 12, 2013
I was anxious to read this book because it was written by a friend of my daughter. Kathy Czepiel has written a great first novel! The setting is the Hudson Valley, the time begins in 1898. Ida is married to a violet farmer who is embittered by his exclusion to the same business rights and profits that his brothers benefit from in the violet business. The situation has created a cold, mean man. Ida suffers in a loveless marriage and can only hope that life will take a better turn for her daughter Alice. Despite sacrifices and efforts to earn extra money, there is hopelessness that their debt will ever be paid or that the family as it exists can ever look ahead to better times. In a shocking betrayal of both his wife and daughter, when Alice is a teen-ager her father takes her to work in New York City. Lives are forever changed. Ida becomes single-minded in her efforts to restore her daughter's life to her. This book was excellently researched in several areas - wet nursing, the very interesting violet industry and the situation of young working girls in New York City.
Profile Image for Carol.
26 reviews1 follower
January 5, 2014
Great read!

War, violet farming, and women's suffrage provide the context for the unfolding of a story about the relationships between women, with particular focus on a mother, Ida and her daughter, Alice. What emerges are the demands and limitations of these women in supporting their families while adhering to societal codes and expectations that almost seem a separate character intent on securing their subjugation.

From the very beginning of the novel, the reader is immersed in the richly envisioned world of the Fletcher family - characters and detailing so complete, that, by the end of the novel, it is difficult to believe the family was entirely fictitious. About half-way through the story there is an unanticipated plot twist that made this a suspenseful read and pushed the reader to consider questions of morality, forgiveness, and defining one’s own sense of self in a world that would deny it.
November 4, 2012
A mixed bag for me. Slow to start, then towards the middle more engaging as the subjagation of women around the turn of the 20th century is clearly brought to life. A boor of a man whose anger infects every facet of his life totally ruins the life of his wife and daughter. Don't want to get into spoilers, so won't specify the plot elements involving the daughter, Alice. Ida, her mother is a wet nurse, in additon to the family's laundress, cook, etc. Alice is also expected to pitch in at peak times with the violet crop. The violet farming in New York's Hudson Valley was interesting, but kind of confusing at the start; some explanatory text about the history of violets as related to consumers was included later in the book when it would have worked better for me much soooner. I did care about Alice and Ida; sometimes their disability to communicate to each other was frustrating but probably fairly realistic.
Profile Image for Melissa.
288 reviews10 followers
April 9, 2013
A compelling tale of the plight of women from working class backgrounds at the turn of the century in NY's Hudson Valley.

This novel had a little bit of everything: intrigue, unrequited romance, family drama and secrets, as well as fascinating history about violet farming. I was unaware what a popular and lucrative farming endeavor this was just a couple hours away from where I live.

This was a well done first novel. The history was gently woven into the story which isn't always the case with historical fiction. It wasn't forced or cliche and I really felt like I learned something about wet nursing and violet farming. I also enjoyed the description of the daily doings on the farm.

I highly recommend this debut novel to anyone who enjoys a good, solid story with believable characters, as well as anyone who enjoys historical fiction. I heard the author speak at an event last February and she is lovely. She spoke about how she conducted her research for this novel.
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