Book Review: The Gilded Hour by Sara Donati

The Gilded Hour…

Book Description:

The international bestselling author of Into the Wilderness makes her highly anticipated return with a magnificent epic about the transcendent power of courage in 19th-century New York…

The year is 1883, and although young surgeon Anna Savard and her cousin, Sophie, have become successful physicians, they never recovered from the losses they suffered as children. So when Anna encounters a child who’s lost nearly everything, she must decide whether she’s willing to let go of the past and let love into her life. Meanwhile, Sophie’s memories of being left alone in the world propel the young obstetrician to help a desperate mother—and catapult her into the orbit of a very dangerous man.

Vividly drawing on historical events, Sara Donati has written a captivating, emotionally gripping novel that proves she is an author at the height of her powers.

 

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My Thoughts:

I will confess upfront that I am a huge fan of Sara Donati’s Wilderness Series, so when I found out about this book, the beginning of a new series about the descendants of the original series, I bought it immediately and then waited a year before reading it.

Why?

I think my expectations were so high I was afraid they would not be met and then my Sara Donati bubble would burst and all of my hopes and dreams to date would be dashed.

And it was very thick, and knowing myself like I do, if it turned out to be fabulous, I would not move until it was finished.
Well, it was fabulous, I barely moved, and I wish I had read it a year ago, although, in a way waiting was not such a bad idea, because now I have a year less to wait for the sequel. And with the way this novel ended, I am so glad there is a sequel! The ending is probably as good a place to start as any. Donati finished this novel with enough resolution for the reader to be satisfied, but enough loose threads for a definite continuation of the story.

I feel immensely satisfied with the characters in this novel. In Anna and Jack, we have our Elizabeth and Nathaniel. The love story between these two was entertaining as well as touching. So well suited, yet different enough to keep things interesting, and above all, a foundation built on mutual respect. Very well done! Other characters added much to the novel, I couldn’t possibly list them all for fear of leaving some out, but most notably, Elise, Sophie, and Oscar, were all favourites of mine.

The Gilded Hour is such a worthy novel, set in 19th century New York, focusing in particular on   Anna and Sophie, two female doctors orbiting in a professional world that by and large holds them in contempt by virtue of their gender. Beneath the story though is a whole other world simmering, detailing the many disadvantages experienced by women in that era, particularly with regard to contraception and control over ones own body. The author also explores other important themes, such as homelessness, the working poor, orphans, immigrants, racism, child abuse, domestic violence, and the notion of population control in terms of the theory of the era as offered by Thomas Malthus. Also, more broadly explored, was the idea of conformity and individuality, concepts that appear in Donati’s previous Wilderness Series in abundance, and something I especially enjoy and have come to think of as her special touch.

I found The Gilded Hour to be an excellent novel in terms of how well it had been researched and I was entirely wrapped up in the setting as well as the characters. Novels based on social history are always a favourite of mine, but this one most definitely stands out as a quality read.

The crime aspect of the storyline served as a brilliant way to highlight many of the above mentioned issues in a realistic manner. I was completely caught up in the case and look forward to its continuation in the next instalment of this series. This storyline also served the dual purpose of solidifying the relationship between Anna and Jack, as they learnt more about each other while working side by side towards a common purpose.

I can’t recommend this book highly enough. I absolutely loved it. Reading the Wilderness Series is not a prerequisite to following this one as there is a significant time lapse between the two and a generation gap. If you have never read a Sara Donati novel and you love historical fiction, I suggest you start with The Gilded Hour. I promise you will never look back!