By Tall Poppy Orly Konig
I didn’t know anything about Paula Cohen or Gramercy Park when I picked it up several years ago. I wasn’t reading with “author eyes” back then either. But this book so captured my imagination that I recently reread it to see if my memory of it held up. Oh boy did it!
The book takes place in 1894 New York City. Esteemed tenor Mario Alfieri is looking to escape from the scrutiny of the New York elite. He moves into the elegant massy of recently deceased Henry Ogden Slade. The house, he discovers, isn’t entirely empty. Salde’s former ward, Clara Adler, still lives there. Damaged and terrified, Clara captivates Mario.
Gramercy Park is part love story, part suspense, part mystery. Cohen’s prose is beautiful, her descriptions lush, and her characters multifaceted.
The book does deal with some disturbing themes that made me uneasy at times, but I was so taken with Cohen’s writing that I couldn’t put the book down – either of the times I read it.
From the publisher …
New York City, 1894. To Gramercy Park, bordered by elegant town houses, cloistered behind its high iron fence, comes Mario Alfieri, a celebrated tenor and the toast of Europe. Poised for his premier at the Metropolitan Opera, the summit of society, Alfieri needs a refuge from the clamor of New York’s elite . . . and from the eager women who rule it. He finds it, he thinks, at Gramercy Park, in the elegant mansion of the recently deceased Henry Ogden Slade. The house is available, but not quite empty. Clara Adler, Slade’s former ward, lives there still, friendless and alone. Who is this bewitching young woman? Why did Slade take her into his home, only to leave her penniless at his death? And what tragedies and terrors have left Clara little more than a pale and frightened ghost, haunting the deserted mansion? Mystified, then enchanted, Alfieri is soon involved in an intrigue that spans two decades and pits him against a vicious enemy who swears to destroy both him and the woman he loves . . . and whose weapons are scandal, murder, and the revelations of Clara’s past.
Orly Konig is an escapee from the corporate world where she spent roughly sixteen (cough) years working in the space industry. Now she spends her days chatting up imaginary friends, drinking entirely too much coffee, and negotiating writing space around two over-fed cats.