The Fifth Avenue Artists Society was written like a beautiful poem. Each sentence burst with flowery language that evoked images that brought this turn of the century story to life. Author Joy Callaway was adept at succinctly describing each character’s background as well as their physical attributes, while also honing in on the details of their clothing and the elements that filled each scene. That all created a novel full of authentic aspects that gave this a realistic feel.
The protagonist here was Ginny, a strong-willed woman intent of becoming a published author in an era where hardly any publisher represented women writers. I liked her immensely for her fierce desire not to give up her dreams in exchange for the safety of marriage. While this novel discussed relationships, careers, murder, and the arts, this was really a coming of age story of Ginny set against New York.
The novel began when she expected her neighbor Charlie to propose to her. She was extremely surprised and heartbroken when he took another woman as his wife strictly for her money. Because there wasn’t much of the book devoted to Ginny’s friendship with Charlie, it was a little hard for me to fully grasp why Ginny was so in love with him for the remainder of the novel. Actually, that was how I felt about all of Ginny’s relationships. They were presented as established bonds that the reader was supposed to accept, but I like scenes that show the characters strengthening their relationships, and that lacked here.
I thought it would be more exciting to read about the literary greats who made up the exclusive Fifth Avenue Artist Society that welcomed Ginny. I couldn’t believe how boring Ginny’s interactions were with the members even with cameos by Oscar Wilde and Edith Wharton. The novel sort of stalled with too much time spend on the relationships between other characters, to, I guess, highlight how different Ginny was from the other women of that time. Suddenly, the last hundred pages were devoted to this weird murder mystery that seemed to be used to push Ginny’s life a certain direction.
I don’t know how I feel about this one. I liked the ultimate result that Ginny deciced to remain an independent woman who would pursue a writing career and would not need to rely on a man, but her life was empty and she certainly didn’t achieve a typical happy ending.