Tuesday, May 21, 2024
American Literature Biographical Fiction Biographical Historical Fiction Book Reviews

Book Review: An American Beauty: A Novel of the Gilded Age Inspired by the True Story of Arabella Huntington Who Became the Richest Woman in the Country by Shana Abe .

Photograph by Brigitte Werner

An American Beauty: A Novel of the Gilded Age Inspired by the True Story of Arabella Huntington Who Became the Richest Woman in the Country, written by Shana Abe, is a captivating historical fiction novel that takes readers on a mesmerizing journey through the Gilded Age and the life of Arabella Huntington. With meticulous research and a gift for storytelling, Abe transports us to a time of opulence, ambition, and societal complexities.

Set against the backdrop of the late 19th century, the novel introduces us to Arabella Huntington, a woman of extraordinary determination and resilience. As the wife of Collis P. Huntington, one of the wealthiest men in America, Arabella finds herself thrust into a world of immense wealth, power, and social politics. However, it is her own tenacity and shrewd business acumen that ultimately propels her to become the richest woman in the country.

Abe’s writing is richly descriptive, immersing the reader in the sights, sounds, and emotions of the Gilded Age. From the glittering ballrooms of New York City to the sprawling estates of the wealthy elite, every scene is brought to life with vivid detail. The author’s ability to transport the reader to this era is truly remarkable, and the book serves as a window into a bygone era of excess and inequality.

One of the strengths of An American Beauty is its portrayal of Arabella Huntington as a complex and multifaceted character. Abe delves deep into Arabella’s psyche, exploring her ambitions, fears, and desires. Arabella is a woman ahead of her time, defying societal expectations and breaking free from the confines of traditional gender roles. Her journey from a humble background to becoming a powerful force in American society is inspiring and empowering.

Furthermore, Abe masterfully intertwines historical events and figures into the narrative, adding depth and authenticity to the story. The Gilded Age was a time of rapid industrialization, political corruption, and class divisions, and Abe skillfully captures these aspects, giving readers a glimpse into the tumultuous socio-political climate of the era. The inclusion of real-life personalities such as J.P. Morgan and Andrew Carnegie adds an extra layer of intrigue to the narrative, making the story feel even more immersive.

The pacing of the novel is well-executed, keeping the reader engaged from start to finish. Abe strikes a delicate balance between the personal struggles of Arabella and the broader historical context, ensuring that neither aspect overshadows the other. The narrative flows smoothly, effortlessly transitioning between Arabella’s personal life and the societal upheavals occurring around her.

Another notable aspect of An American Beauty is Abe’s exploration of the complexities of wealth and privilege. While Arabella enjoys the luxuries and privileges that come with her status, she also faces the scrutiny and isolation that accompany immense wealth. Through her experiences, the novel highlights the stark disparities between the rich and the poor, exposing the dark underbelly of the Gilded Age.

If there is one minor drawback to the novel, it is that some characters, particularly secondary ones, feel underdeveloped. While Arabella is a richly fleshed-out character, some of the supporting cast could have benefitted from more exploration and depth. Nevertheless, this does not detract significantly from the overall enjoyment of the book.

In conclusion, An American Beauty: A Novel of the Gilded Age Inspired by the True Story of Arabella Huntington Who Became the Richest Woman in the Country is a compelling and evocative historical fiction novel. Shana Abe’s meticulous research and immersive storytelling bring to life the opulence, ambition, and societal complexities of the Gilded Age. Through the captivating journey of Arabella Huntington, readers are given a glimpse into an era of immense wealth and inequality. This book is a must-read for anyone who enjoys historical fiction and a tale of a remarkable woman defying societal norms to carve her own path to success.


Andreas Michaelides

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