A Fine Imitation was told by Vera, in two narratives. One took place at college, where brash and fun Bea befriended Vera and tried to get her to live a little by attending football games and talking with boys. Bea’s recklessness culminated when she convinced Vera to sneak out of the dorm and sleep away without a chaperon, something that was quite shocking for the time. Their friendship never rebounded from the fallout of that decision. Which took us to Vera’s second narrative in her current life as a kept woman on the Upper East Side in New York.
Vera was set on marrying Author even though he was ten years older than her and they clearly lacked a romantic connection. Even though Vera’s mother warned her that she was marrying beneath her, Vera rushed toward the stability that marrying Arthur would bring even though the engagement would require her to drop out of college. (Obviously the role of wife and mother would be more important than finishing her college education.) Vera came across as shallow and unhappy, a direct result of living her life to the standards set by others. The one thing that gave her any character was her adoration of art.
From the contradiction of the past and the present, it was clear that Vera led a dull and loveless life as predicted by Bea. Her husband was clearly having an affair, and didn’t even bother to hide it. The absence of a relationship pushed Vera into a friendship with Hallan, the man her apartment building co-op board hired to paint a mural in a common room downstairs.
The setting of New York in the 1920’s was so perfect for this story. This had sort of an Awakening premise as Vera discovered herself and evaluated what would make her happy. The emphasis here was for Vera to realize she didn’t need the New York social structure filled with dinner parties, calling cards, and rules to be happy. When she discovered she couldn’t even make herself a cup of tea, she realized she was helpless and too dependent on her staff. Her enlightenment came once she realized everyone was pretending to be who they are just as she was, and then faced the challenge of whether or not to stop pretending.
I could have used more description last about Vera’s clothing, but loved the prohibition references. I also just enjoyed the romantic elements to this story. I really enjoyed this and would read more by this author.