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BOOK REVIEW: "A Certain Age" by Beatriz Williams



You know those books that claim to be a piece of historical fiction, but then only make a passing reference to another time and place, somewhere deep in the recesses of the background? A Certain Age is not one of those. Crack open the cover of this book and you will instantly, immersively, be transported back to the Jazz Age in 1920s Manhattan. From the way the author brings to life the settings, the clothing, and the social norms of the wealthy elite to the way she captures the cadence and lingo of the speech from the era, you can almost hear the strains of jazz in the distance and smell the bootleg liquor oozing from the pages.

Evocative of the time as this book is -- and oh, how it is -- what makes it truly un-put-downable are the intricate plot and the richly textured characters, in all their flawed glory. There's Mrs. Marshall, a woman "of a certain age" who is two decades into her marriage to Sylvester. There's Octavian Rofrano, Mrs. Marshall's much-too-young lover. There's Jay, Mrs. Marshall's brother, and there's Sophie, to whom Jay is supposed to get engaged (and, incidentally, with whom Mr. Rofrano soon finds himself in love). There's Virginia, Sophie's older sister. And there is Sophie and Virginia's father, a reclusive man whom we soon find out may not be who he seems.

The story is one of murder, of divided loyalties, of love, lust, and betrayal -- all the ingredients of a truly engrossing and memorable book. It is the kind of book that will rattle around in the back of your mind long after you have turned the final page. It is the kind of book you will recommend to your friends, pleading with them to read it so that they, too, can find themselves immersed in its magic. Williams writes in alternating voices, moving between young Sophie's spirited-yet-innocent optimism and Mrs. Marshall's wry, womanly observations, the kind of voice that comes from experience. This contradiction breathes life not only into these two women, but into the men they love, lust after, and ultimately betray.

This was my kind of summer read: Smart, sexy, with a good whodunnit at the core. Until A Certain Age I had not read anything written by Ms. Williams. After reading this book, I cannot wait to get my hands on everything else she has published. Beatriz Williams, you most certainly have yourself a new fan.


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