The Secret Life of Violet Grant by Beatriz Williams: Book Review

FictionSecret Life of Violet Grant, Beatriz Williams
Released May, 2014
440 Pages
Bottom Line: Read it.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary

In 1964, Vivian Schuyler receives her great aunt’s (Violet Schuyler Grant) suitcase from 1914 in the mail, sending her on an investigative mission to uncover the details behind Violet’s mysterious disappearance.

My Thoughts

The Secret Life of Violet Grant was on my list of summer books I was excited about reading…mostly because I think Williams’ last book, A Hundred Summers, is the most perfect beach book I’ve ever read (yes, really!). While I didn’t love Violet Grant quite as much as I loved A Hundred Summers (that’s a tall order!), I liked it about as much as one can like something without using the word “love” and will be adding it to my 2014 Summer Reading List.

For those who have read A Hundred Summers, prepare yourselves for the fact that Violet Grant is quite a different book. The story is told in alternating perspectives (a bit of a trend these days!): Violet’s from 1912 through 1914 and Vivian’s in 1964. Violet’s chapters feel like true historical fiction with the backdrop of World War I and Violet’s career as an atomic physicist (rare and somewhat scandalous for a female in those days). They reminded me of Fall of Giants and Winter of the World (the first two books of Ken Follett’s Century trilogy)…a very good thing!

Vivian’s chapters read like chick lit and are more reminiscent of A Hundred Summers…especially since the Schuylers are relatives of Lily Greenwald from Summers! Lily and Nick and Cousin Julie make some fun cameos in Vivian’s quest for answers about Violet’s life. And, the family scandal that made Summers so deliciously juicy resurfaces here as Vivian digs deeper into Violet’s life (I mean, what’s more scandalous than a NYC blueblood running off to Europe to pursue her career, only to marry her professor, then disappear with her lover following her husband’s murder?!). Don’t worry, that was not a spoiler…that’s just the start of things! The one thing about Vivian’s chapters that bugged me initially was her dialogue…it was over the top in a “darling, I am beautiful and blue blooded and can do anything I want and get away with it” sort of way. As the book went on, I got used to it and it didn’t bother me so much.

Violet and Vivian are strong female characters that I completely respected. They’re both smart, brash, courageous, and daring…but in very different ways. Vivian will try any imaginable trick to get what she wants (in a humorous, frivolous way) and Violet will sacrifice almost anything to get what she wants (in a deadly serious way). Imagine what you could get if you combined these two! And, the difference in characters carried over into the feeling you got when reading their respective chapters. I loved the balance of switching back and forth from the frivolousness of Vivian to the seriousness of Violet.

Finally, I thought the ending seemed abrupt and random…until I read the “Aftermath” chapter, which closed the book in a thrilling and appropriate way.

The Secret Life of Violet Grant is going on my 2014 Summer Reading List.

You May Also Like

A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams
Fall of Giants by Ken Follett
Winter of the World by Ken Follett

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  1. I started to read A Hundred Summers about 2 months ago, but it was an ebook from the library that I couldn’t renew. I’m planning to see if it’s available again because it does sound like a great summer read and I enjoyed the little bit I read.

    Thanks for visiting my blog. Happy summer reading!

    Posted 6.23.14 Reply
  2. I really want to check this one out. I’m a huge fan of A Hundred Summers so I want to give this one a chance. Great review!

    Posted 6.24.14 Reply
  3. Not sure why this happened, but a ton of your posts just appeared in my blogluvin feed – I thought you’d taken a blogging break! Anyway, A Hundred Summers is my idea of the perfect beach read and I will definitely get to Violet Grant at some point. If not this summer, maybe in Florida over the winter. Love this author’s storytelling ability and even it this one isn’t quite the same, I’m sure I will like it.

    Posted 6.29.14 Reply
  4. Cleo wrote:

    Well this one has to go on my TBR – this sounds just like my kind of read and my the earlier time period for historical novels too. Thanks for sharing.

    Posted 7.8.14 Reply
  5. Nancy Barton wrote:

    I very much enjoyed “The Secret Life of Violet Grant” and will now must read “A Hndred Summers”!

    Posted 3.11.19 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      Yes! Which is a bit of a pre-quel to Violet Grant!

      Posted 3.12.19 Reply
  6. SUE BAUER wrote:

    I read The Secret Life of Violet Grant twice. I had forgotten the explicit sexual content and was almost shocked the second time that it seemed a bit much. Did I like the story? Yes, and it is a qualified yes. This novel is long and the similarities and differences in the parallel plot of the two related women whose story happens fifty years apart, 1914 and 1964, can be tedious. The Violet and Vivian characters are independent thinkers and the historical periods show historical periods in flux, one at the beginning of World War I and the other in the Swinging Sixties. It has an interesting mystery and a nice ending, two things I enjoy in the fiction I choose. The plot can seem contrived and extreme, but the author is a skilled storyteller.

    Posted 10.17.19 Reply

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