Readers who enjoy Gilded Age and War Era fiction authors like Beatriz Williams and Kate Morton, will certainly be drawn to Amber Brock’s A Fine Imitation. Set in the middle of Prohibition-era New York City, the novel introduces properly mannered society wife, Vera Bellington. Former Vassar art student, with an impeccable upbringing and submissively compliant to the rules her mother, a strict society matron, imposes on her Vera has married the right man that will continue to cement her place in the upper echelons of Manhattan’s elite. But the arrival of French artist Emil Hallan, who has been commissioned to paint a mural for the pool of the upscale building she occupies with her husband, will make her question her choices and wonder if she has compromised the person she could have become for a life trapped in a golden cage.
Although the narrative and story line is exquisitely detailed in regards to the descriptions of art and general glimpses into the lifestyle of 1920’s high society, Vera’s character is lackluster at best, making the same banal and predictable choices time and time again. She wants to leave the artist one minute,then throws herself into his arms the next. She loves Emil and moments later she is back to wanting to be happy with her husband Arthur, who she knows does not give two cents about her, and has been having affairs since the marriage began.
If the author intended this as a means to a suspenseful buildup or angst, which ultimately leads towards an intended surprise ending, it backfires in the way of making Vera a weak and superficial character, letting her husband and her mother manipulate and dictate her actions and even her own feelings. Finally in the last ten pages of the book, she impulsively decides to break free, and simultaneously rights a wrong done to a good friend decades earlier.
The novel is very well written and the narrative enticing. But it’s very hard to warm up to Vera when her shallowness supersedes her last minute show of rebellion.