In this debut novel set in 1931, a corsetiere fleeing scandal starts over in a small town, where she learns more about her past and herself.
When Marion Hatley, 33, gets a letter urging a visit to her Aunt Elsie, who is dying, the invitation is well-timed. She’s just been let go from her seamstress job after a customer witnessed Marion embracing her sister’s husband, Benton Granger. Thirty miles from Pittsburgh is little Cooper’s Ford, where Marion—hoping rumors haven’t pursued her that far—will serve as a temporary schoolteacher and care for her failing aunt in the evenings. Meanwhile, Marion can work on perfecting her mother Vera’s vision of the ideal shaping garment, both flattering and comfortable: “a corset that did not so much constrict the flesh as gently remind it to behave.” Marion, a resourceful woman, soon settles into her new routine, becoming friendly with Elsie’s excellent daytime caregiver and housekeeper, Ina Lisle, and with Elder Baines (“Elder” being a first name, not signifying a church official), who was injured in World War I, still suffers from shell shock, and helps Walter, Ina’s son, with his reading. After Marion has a breakthrough with her new shapewear design, dubbed the Whisper Lift, she begins selling her work in a local shop. Marion learns essential truths about her mother (now dead) from Elsie and becomes a force for good in the lives of several people. In her novel, Castrodale draws readers in with the fascinating details of inventing and constructing Marion’s new foundation garment, a process that requires a union of engineering, creativity, and sympathy for the female body. Sympathy directed by action is a keynote of Marion’s character and plays out in the lives of several characters in significant ways. Though some elements, such as Marion’s affair with Benton or lingerie’s ooh-la-la associations, could be played for cheaper thrills, the book’s style is serious-minded and thoughtful, even lyrical: “Marion knew what it was to watch good work and be guided by it, even months and years later.”
A reflective, compassionate, and gracefully written tale about a designer that effectively uses its historical setting.
A Professor at Georgia State University, Beth Gylys has two previously published award-winning collections of poetry as well as two chapbooks. Awarded fellowships and residencies at the MacDowell Colony, La Muse and La Centre D'art i Natura de Farrera, she has had work published in many anthologies and journals.
“Gylys’s new book is capacious and generous. With lyric precision and enormous range, she writes of edgy love, of witness, of music and loss, and so much more. Beth Gylys has created a luminous emporium of the necessary, the ordinary, and the extraordinary." --Theodore Deppe
Here's a link to information about Beth's latest poetry collection, Sky Blue Enough to Drink: http://graysonbooks.com/sky-blue-enough-to-drink.html