I’ve gone through a period where it seems as though many books I’ve read take place during either World War I or World War II. I don’t need to tell you that, while they are often interesting, they are also invariably and understandably sad.
Perhaps the time period in which it takes place – the 1920s — is the thing I liked best about A Certain Age, a novel by one of my favorite authors, Beatriz Williams. That time of glamour and jazz in which people acted as though Prohibition didn’t exist, and women were freed from their corsets and gaining more and more independence. And what could be better than a novel set in the Roaring Twenties in New York City?
Wealthy Mrs. Theresa Marshall, a woman approaching middle age and bored with her marriage to a rich older man who is a serial philanderer, fights her boredom by becoming involved in an affair with a considerably younger man. She has no plans to divorce her husband, as they have a kind of understanding. But her young lover Octavian, has fallen for her and would like to get married. That is, until he meets Sophie, the daughter of a newly-wealthy man who has a mysterious past. If you are an opera fan, the plot might be familiar to you as the book is loosely based on an opera by Richard Strauss called Der Rosenkavalier.
One of my favorite things about Beatriz Williams is that many of her novels are based on different members of the wealthy Schuyler family. As such, many of the stories are loosely related. In A Certain Age, Sophie’s best friend is Julie Schuyler, who we learn is the great aunt of the main characters in three of my favorite Williams novels: Tiny Schuyler of Tiny Little Thing, Pepper Schuyler of Along the Infinite Sea, and Vivian Schuyler of The Secret Life of Violet Grant, all of whom are sisters. Not necessarily pertinent to the story, but fun nevertheless.
I will admit that it took me a bit of time to get into the novel. I felt it started slowly. Furthermore, I initially found Theresa to be offputting. She appeared to be shallow and every time she called Octavian Boyo, which she did all the time, my skin crawled. As the novel progressed, however, I began to understand the complicated Mrs. Marshall, and even grew somewhat fond of her. Sophie was a wonderful character, and I loved watching her come into herself, despite her sad past.
A Certain Age is a romantic novel wrapped in a mystery, and the ending was satisfying, if somewhat predictable. I love Beatriz Williams’ writing, and A Certain Age didn’t disappoint.