Gilded Summers

Written by Donna Russo Morin
Review by Ellen Jaquette

Morin’s Gilded Summers explores two women and their opposite worlds, detailing their unlikely friendship and growth into the people they truly want to be. Pearl and Ginevra are close friends and confidants during Newport’s Gilded Age. But as one navigates the ballrooms and social expectations that come with being a member of the elite Four Hundred, the other finds herself mending clothes and ostracized by household staff for her Italian accent. When both women aspire to be more than their gender or station allow, society’s expectations and even physical danger get in their way.

This tale is full of fun details on Newport life and the Gilded Age, and the characters of Pearl and Ginevra provide two different but compelling lenses to view life at the time. However, jumps between these two narrators are confusing at times, as the voices of both Pearl and Ginerva are alarmingly similar on the page. Despite this confusion and reliance on narration or setting clues to follow the different threads, segments of delightfully descriptive Gilded Age Newport abound. The pace quickens exponentially toward the end as the story covers a mysterious crime involving the two women and a resulting criminal trial. This twist is unexpected and contrasts with the earlier portion of the book, but it moves the tale to a satisfying conclusion.