(Reviewed by JD Jung)
“She had sacrificed a friend to save herself, and for what? To be disdained by her husband? To become the queen of meaningless social rituals? To be a good girl but a bad person?”
Vera Longacre knew her future. Her mother constantly reminded her of what was expected while she was at Vassar in 1913. She was to marry Arthur Bellington, ten years her senior, and live as part of Manhattan’s social elite. She knew her marriage would be like that of her parents’, “less of a choice and more of inevitability”.
While at Vassar she met Bea, a free-spirit from Atlanta. Though she initially resisted the friendship, Bea brought something out of her and for once she felt happy and free. However when it came to friendship or family expectations, the latter won out.
After marrying Arthur she wanted for nothing material but longed for love and companionship. Arthur was hardly ever home and all he expected from her was that she publicly play the part of high society wife. What she did in private, well, he really didn’t care. Vera felt useless, sitting “in the house full of empty, useless things.”
Not only was she depressed, but she ran into Bea and guilty feelings from her past came back to haunt her.
Then an intriguing French artist is hired to paint a mural on their building. He and Vera seem to keep meeting in public and though they talk, he is very secretive about his past. Is he for real or actually a con artist? Will Vera fall for him? More importantly will Vera be able to redeem herself, become free and have merit outside of high society?
These questions keep the reader engaged in the story. A Fine Imitation gives us a glimpse of 1920s prohibition and the Park Avenue social elite. Each chapter switches between Vera in college and then ten years later in Manhattan. The structure works well as it keeps the reader invested in the story , wondering how Vera’s life will turn out. Though I was invested in the story, I wasn’t invested in the characters. I found myself intrigued as a detached observer. Also, I’m not sure that I buy the ending, as it seems far-fetched.
Still, I don’t always need to care about the characters if the story-line gives me a fresh experience. I would recommend A Fine Imitation for those who are seeking a quick, fine read.