Book review: Rare Objects by Kathleen Tessaro



  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Harper (April 12, 2016)
  • General fiction


In Depression-era Boston, a city divided by privilege and poverty, two unlikely friends are bound by a dangerous secret in this mesmerizing work of historical fiction from the New York Times bestselling author of The Perfume Collector.

Maeve Fanning is a first generation Irish immigrant, born and raised among the poor, industrious Italian families of Boston’s North End by her widowed mother. Clever, capable, and as headstrong as her red hair suggests, she’s determined to better herself despite the overwhelming hardships of the Great Depression.

However, Maeve also has a dangerous fondness for strange men and bootleg gin—a rebellious appetite that soon finds her spiraling downward, leading a double life. When the strain proves too much, Maeve becomes an unwilling patient in a psychiatric hospital, where she strikes up a friendship with an enigmatic young woman, who, like Maeve, is unable or unwilling to control her un-lady-like desire for freedom.

Once out, Maeve faces starting over again. Armed with a bottle of bleach and a few white lies, she lands a job at an eccentric antiques shop catering to Boston’s wealthiest and most peculiar collectors. Run by an elusive English archeologist, the shop is a haven of the obscure and incredible, providing rare artifacts as well as unique access to the world of America’s social elite. While delivering a purchase to the wealthy Van der Laar family, Maeve is introduced to beautiful socialite Diana Van der Laar—only to discover she’s the young woman from the hospital.

Reunited with the charming but increasingly unstable Diana and pursued by her attractive brother James, Mae becomes more and more entwined with the Van der Laar family—a connection that pulls her into a world of moral ambiguity and deceit, and ultimately betrayal. Bewitched by their wealth and desperate to leave her past behind, Maeve is forced to unearth her true values and discover how far she’ll to go to reinvent herself.

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ktessaro2Meet the author:

Kathleen Tessaro is the author of EleganceInnocenceThe Flirt, and The Debutante. She lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with her husband and son.

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Is it possible to “come of age” when one is already “of age”?  Maeve, the daughter of an Irish immigrant mother has a secret box. What she hides in this box reveals much about her personality, a bowtie, silver and gold gum wrappers and used train tickets.

Maeve decides that life in Boston isn’t what she wants.  She wants to go to New York.  The lack of a suitable job and wrong friends combined with too much drinking and partying take its toll and Maeve eventually ends up in a psychiatric hospital.  There she meets Diana, an enigmatic and apparently wealthy socialite.  At this point, Maeve decides that it’s time to grow up and try to live more responsibility.  Back home she hears of a job in an antique shop and armed with a bottle of bleach to hide her “Irishness” and a fake story, she applies for this job and is hired.

Unexpectedly, Diana appears in her life.  At first, Maeve is suspicious about Diana’s motives but the lure of experiencing how the rich live proves to be too strong for her resist.  She soon discovers that the sparkle and gaiety are only a facade to darker issues that haunt Diana and her family.  Disillusioned, she begins to explore the world of antiques and antiquities.  A map with pins on a wall as well as the man who put them there in the office fascinate her.

In Rare Objects we follow Maeve on a tumultuous journey of self discovery and a passion for the world outside that of her own.