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June 19, 2014 / Leslie

Review – Audiobook: The Secret Life of Violet Grant

Violet GrantThe Secret Life of Violet Grant
by Beatriz Williams
Narrated by Kathleen McInerney

Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Penguin Audio
Publish Date: May 27, 2014
Format: Audio, 14 hours | 42 minutes
Audio Listening Level: Easy
Rating: 3½ of 5

From the Publisher:

Passion, redemption, and a battered suitcase full of secrets: the New York Times-bestselling author of A Hundred Summers returns with another engrossing tale.

Manhattan, 1964: Vivian Schuyler, newly graduated from Bryn Mawr College, has recently defied the privilege of her storied old Fifth Avenue family to do the unthinkable for a budding Kennedy-era socialite: break into the Mad Men world of razor-stylish Metropolitan magazine.

Berlin, 1914: Violet Schuyler Grant endures her marriage to the philandering and decades-older scientist Dr. Walter Grant for one reason: for all his faults, he provides the necessary support to her liminal position as a young American female physicist in prewar Germany.

My Thoughts:

Vivian was unaware that she had a great-aunt Violet until a mysterious old suitcase turns up and is mailed to her attention. She quickly discovers that no one likes to talk about Violet. According to family legend, Violet, a scientist working in Germany, murdered her husband and ran off with her lover shortly before the beginning of World War I. What happened to Violet? Vivian is determined to find the answers.

There are two story lines moving back and forth in time – Violet in 1964 and Vivian in 1914. Vivian is fun, flirty and aggressive. She wants a career in journalism and an exciting social life; her mother wants her to settle down and marry a proper young man. Violet is an aspiring scientist in an era when independence and ambition in women was frowned on; she allows herself to be seduced by her mentor, an older professor.

I wasn’t expecting to like this book as much as I did, but once I began listening I was immediately swept up in the mystery, intrigue and romance. As we alternate between 1964 and 1914, the two stories are woven together – the fun of the 1960s in America (think Mad Men, drinking, smoking, sex) and the historical turn of the century in pre-war Europe.

Filled with snappy dialog and engaging, although sometimes soap-opera-ish, characters, I was hooked enough to overlook some of the things that usually annoy me. Vivian was over-the-top flirtatious with a new boyfriend and used lots of corny clichés. And Violet, for being a highly educated woman, exhibited periods of what I can only describe as dumbness. And Vivian’s new boyfriend, Dr. Paul, would never exist in real life!

Despite my quibbles, I enjoyed the book. The story intensifies near the finish with a few unexpected plot twists. Loose ends come together a little too neatly but will provide satisfaction to readers that enjoy tidy endings.

Audio Production

The audio production was performed by Kathleen McInerney in a smooth, pleasant voice. Although the story moved back and forth in time, and Vivian and Violet sounded the similar, I had no problem following the narration. With different characters in each time line, it was clear what year we were in. One warning about the audio, there is one chapter towards the end with some rather salty language – I’m not easily offended, but I was glad I was listening through headphones – sensitive ears be warned.

Source: Review copy provided by Penguin Audio.
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Leave a Comment
  1. Mystica / Jun 19 2014 10:51 am

    I like the sound of Violet but already dislike Vivian. How irrational can I be? This sounds absorbing.


    • Leslie / Jun 19 2014 11:00 am

      I thought Violet’s story was a bit more interesting.


  2. BermudaOnion / Jun 19 2014 2:09 pm

    This sounds like a lot of fun to me!


  3. Suko / Jun 19 2014 3:40 pm

    This sounds very “listenable”. I’m glad you enjoyed it, Leslie!


  4. diane / Jun 19 2014 7:40 pm

    I started this and then switched to The Vacationers, but definitely plan to go back:) Sound good for summer,


  5. sagustocox / Jun 20 2014 4:17 am

    Sounds like a fun audio book!


  6. stacybuckeye / Jun 21 2014 12:11 am

    I could like this! I would like to give this author another try after A Hundred Summers.


    • Leslie / Jun 21 2014 7:50 am

      It’s much better than A Hundred Summers. I almost passed on this one, but the story line had appeal, so I gave it a try. If you don’t mind soap-opera-ish characters, you might enjoy it!



  1. Tiny Little Thing by Beatriz Williams | Under My Apple Tree

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