Decorum

Written by Kaaren Christopherson
Review by Caroline Wilson

Decorum is a story of manners set in Gilded Age New York, where money and society meant everything. Francesca Lund is an orphaned heiress bent on living life to suit herself. Yet the ways of society are still playing in her mind as she embarks on the appropriate path for a young woman of the period. But has she chosen the right man? And what will society say when her unsuitable desires become known?

At first glance, Decorum could be considered dull. The beginning is slow, as the cast of characters unfolds with excruciating detail. They all have pasts, and each one slowly divulges the truth as the plot continues. Despite the pace, the novel is remarkable in its similarities to the work of Edith Wharton. The reader feels drawn into a world of glamour, glitz, and supreme hypocrisy. Everything is permissible as long as one does not get caught. It is a drama of manners and the stakes are high – one misstep could mean social oblivion. The person who feels this most keenly is Connor O’Casey. An Irish immigrant and self-made man, he storms into New York determined to make his mark. Yet he never forgets the importance of making friends in society, and tries, with some difficulty, to reign in his salt-of-the-earth personality. He and Francesca notice each other from the start, for he is charismatic and she is beautiful but out of reach. Francesca shows excellent character development as she learns to open her eyes to the real world, and stand on her own two feet despite the consequences.

This novel will appeal to a wide range of readers, particularly those who enjoy period novels such as Age of Innocence and The Portrait of a Lady.