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The year is 1883, and in New York City it's a time of dizzying splendor, crushing poverty, and tremendous change. With the gravity-defying Brooklyn Bridge nearly complete and New York in the grips of antivice crusader Anthony Comstock, Anna Savard and her cousin, Sophie - both graduates of the Woman's Medical School - treat the city's most vulnerable, even if doing so may put everything they've strived for in jeopardy.
Anna's work has placed her in the path of four children who have lost everything, just as she herself once had. Faced with their helplessness, Anna must make an unexpected choice between holding on to the pain of her past and letting love into her life.
For Sophie, an obstetrician and the orphaned daughter of free people of color, helping a desperate young mother forces her to grapple with the oath she took as a doctor - and thrusts her and Anna into the orbit of Comstock, a dangerous man who considers himself the enemy of everything indecent and of anyone who dares to defy him.
With its vivid depictions of old New York and its enormously appealing characters, The Gilded Hour is a captivating, emotionally gripping novel that proves Sara Donati is an author at the height of her powers.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Annie M. on 09-06-15
Historical romance, surgical implements too!
Is there anything you would change about this book?
Although I've never read a Sara Donati book, I see that she has quite a tidy list of previous novels. So it's probably safe to say that she and her publishers know what they are doing.
I am interested in how medicine was practiced back in the late 1800s, and this book served my curiosity well. First and foremost, this is a romance novel, with lots of randy scenes between the two main characters. Had this been the only draw, I'd have stopped my listen.
But this book is also a well-researched tome on women's role in medicine back in the Gilded Age. It also features forensic medicine, a la Kathy Reichs of "Bones" fame, at its brith. And there's more:
--it's an immigrant novel,
--it's a mixed race novel,
--it's a novel about prejudice, not just in terms of color, but in terms of country of origin, poverty, women, Catholics, Jews, cops, the wealthy, and, well...not much escapes.
--it's a novel about family and losing family,
--it's about the power of the church
--and, of course, the power of love.
What did you like best about this story?
I enjoy long books that give one a chance to deeply know the characters. Or, if the characters aren't all that well crafted, at least you get a good story. This is not a literary historical work, such as you might find with Kevin Baker's books about New York, but I found I enjoyed it a lot.
Which scene was your favorite?
I enjoyed the scenes having to do with the practice of medicine. In particular, I recall a very well-crafted scene of a surgeon demonstrating a gynecological procedure to a group of male medical students. Every aspect was clear--and horrifying; the patient's terror at the impending procedure, her shame at having her body so exposed to gaping eyes, the pomposity of the physician, who spouted the general thoughts of the day, that women had smaller brains, were not designed to do anything other than be mothers, were hysterical, and inferior in every way to men.
So glad to live in this day and age! Phew!
Was The Gilded Hour worth the listening time?
The listening time was one of the things I enjoyed most. A very long story, with lots of characters, various story lines that all intertwine.
48 of 53 people found this review helpful
By Karen Kelly on 09-14-15
Slow and plodding. More textbook than novel.
What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?
I made it about 23 chapters. There's a mystery of where some orphans ended up who were separated from each other. But, the story would take a turn where there would be a wedding and that became the focus forever in minute details, then another wedding, this and that.
The book starts out more like a novel that happens to teach you some history, but it's like the author couldn't keep that up and it became very apparent her mission was to educate. So there'd be info on contraceptives from that period and lengthy explanations about medical procedures used back then, and women's rights and orphans, and people of mixed races.
I cared about the characters, but the story just became so plodding and kept taking turns into other textbook subjects....ugh, I just couldn't make myself listen to another 20 chapters to find out, finally, what happened to the orphans.
The performer is perfect. If she wasn't so good, I wouldn't have made it this far.
What do you think your next listen will be?
I need something faster moving. Maybe a crime thriller to wake me up.
Which character – as performed by Cassandra Campbell – was your favorite?
Hmmm, I guess Jack, the love interest of the main female doctor. He's down-to-earth and practical and loveable.
If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from The Gilded Hour?
All of the lengthy descriptions of medical procedures. Anything where the writing becomes textbook teaching, instead of novel story-telling. I'd suggest the story sticks to the main focus of finding the orphans, keeping the reader engaged. There are just too many side stories that become the main focus for too long.
Any additional comments?
I like to learn history with historical fiction. But, I want the emphasis to be fiction, a good story. If I want to learn the technical procedures or laws for this and that, I'll pick up a textook.
29 of 32 people found this review helpful