Friday, January 18, 2013


The novel I am currently writing is set in Chevy Chase, Maryland and a little village in the western part of the state beginning in 1908. The working title is 'Between the Shadows' taken from two lines in the book. 

 A view from Louisa's bedroom window.
The way the tree outside quivered in the breeze caused the light to tremble between the shadows.

 Louisa speaking to Jackson, the hero, about how the light plays prisms through the crystal chandelier in the foyer.
“Yes, I believe that is what it is called. I love the way it casts colors between the shadows.”

In order to saturate myself into the era, I've been reading and watching everything I can find to fit the storyline in order to build a mental image of life in the early 1900s.

The period is referred to as the Edwardian in England and the Gilded Age in America. For the wealthy, life was opulent on both sides of the Atlantic, but with different attitudes and standards. Many an English estate was cash poor. Whereas in the US estates were both land and investment rich, and women could inherit, as viewers have seen in the series Downton Abby.

I cannot say life was simpler in those days. The life expectancy was shorter, disease more rampant and life-threaten such as the influenza breakouts. My great great grandmother succumbed to one of those. Child mortality and women dying in childbirth was also higher. Women and minorities were treated as second class citizens. Children worked in dirty factories, and orphans were castoffs.

But on a positive note, the clothes were beautiful and feminine. Men valued a handshake and their word. People went to church on Sundays, and ministers preached the Bible, not self-help sermons. Morals were valued. Women gained the vote. The first Mother's Day was celebrated in 1908, and baseball became America's pastime.

As I am writing 'Between the Shadows', I find myself transported back to a place I visited often in my childhood. I had a great aunt and second cousin that lived in a grand house in Chevy Chase, and my father would take us over to visit when we were kids. From the foyer was a staircase leading upstairs. It was closed off and we were not allowed to go explore the upper story. I wanted to so badly. Instead I imagined bedrooms with antique furniture, poster beds, Persian carpets, and marble fireplaces. I can recall the ride down Connecticut Avenue, the estate houses lining the road, the country club on the right.

'Between the Shadows' will be romantic fiction, a story of love between two different classes of people, and their challenges to accept and hold on to that love. 

How do you imagine the Gilded Age? Would your life have been better or worse off, shorter, poorer or richer? Was life simpler back then?

1 comment:

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

When I think of The Gilded Age, Newport, RI comes to mind. I've toured those grand "cottages" used for a mere two weeks a year.