Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Gilder Book Tour: Review

Reader Girls is the first stop on The Gilder Book Tour hosted by Crazy Book Tours. Welcome and read on to learn more about what makes The Gilder such an absorbing novel.

Publication Date: January 2012
Kensington Books

Summary: Set against the exquisite backdrop of Florence, Italy, The Gilder is a compelling and beautifully wrought novel of secrets, friendship, betrayal, and the simple choices that change us forever. . .

In Marina Nesmith's skilled hands, even the most tarnished picture frame or objet d'art can be made perfect once again. Her life, too, seems flawless, at least on the surface. But more and more, Marina is conscious of what she lacks--someone to share her joys and sorrows with, confidence in the decisions she's made, and the courage to tell her teenage daughter, Zoe, the truth about her father.

Then Marina is invited to return to Florence, where she lived years before while learning her trade as a gilder. In those heady days, she wandered the city's picturesque streets, marveling at the masterpieces in the Duomo and the Pitti Palace. In the church of Santa Croce, she met Thomas, an American photographer who, along with his wife Sarah, introduced Marina to a thrilling, bohemian world of art and beauty. Through them, she also learned about love, lies, and the way one mistake can multiply into many. Now, as her past and present collide, Marina will finally have to move beyond the intricate veneer she's crafted around herself, and find the life that she--and Zoe--have been looking for.

About the author: I was born in 1953 in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the third of six children and eldest daughter of an international businessman, and homemaker. Just before my fourth birthday we moved to England where I became a proper little British girl in my gray Macintosh and black Wellington boots. Although we moved a number of times in those early years between England, Germany, and the States, I have always considered England to be my childhood home. While the frequent moves nurtured a sense of adventure and independence, the social and educational ramifications were often challenging, and to this day I’m a little wistful when I meet people who’ve had the experience of spending their childhood in one place. 

When I was a freshman in high school, we returned to the U.S. where I attended high school and University. Following three, somewhat aimless, years at the University of Wisconsin and many courses in history and literature, I returned to Europe and settled in Florence, Italy. There, I enrolled in a course of study in antiques restoration, ultimately specializing in 15th Century inlay, and enjoyed an expat, bohemian life style. I remained in Florence for five years during which time I made an unexpected visit to a little island off Cape Cod called, Nantucket… I was captivated. 

Following the birth of my daughter in Florence, my then husband and I moved to Nantucket and made it our home. Over the ensuing fifteen years I became a single parent, woodworker, basket maker, caterer, decorative painter, and antiques dealer. 

At the age of forty, I resumed my studies, which is by far the best thing I’ve done in my adult life, and received a BA in liberal arts from Lesley College in 1996. Encouraged to pursue my writing, I eventually went on to a graduate program at Vermont College where I completed my MFA in writing in 2004. During this time I founded the Nantucket Writers Studio, where it gives me immense pleasure to lead creative writing workshops for women. 

My review: Where do I start with my review for a book I simply didn't want to put down? The Gilder kept me late one night, absorbed in Marina's new life in Florence, Italy. She is a recent college graduate pursuing her dream of gilding in a country she fell in love with as a child. Precocious is one way to describe this American kid born to artist parents who developed her own talent for art, in particular, gilding. While living her dream she meets a couple, Sophia and Thomas, she wanted to be a sculptor until she met and fell in love with a photographer at the beginning of his career. They befriend Marina and from then on this young woman's life blossoms both on the job front and in love.

Kathyry Kay's writing is so descriptive and alluring, my eyes begrudgingly left the pages to do something necessary, like take a bathroom break or get water, before I could settle back into Marina's journey. And what a journey it is! She is a wonderful character, real and fully imagined, from her fall onto the face of a Medici inside a chapel, to finally seeing herself as beautiful through the lenses of Thomas' numerous cameras. How she can get up and leave the comfort and security of her home and homeland to travel to another country where she knows only a handful of words is admirable and I might guess, enviable, to those who only wish they could do the same in their own lives. She is a vulnerable, curious woman at 22, a poster girl for wanderlust, and learns that things are not always what they appear to be in love and friendship.

The author made Florence come alive in my eyes and I was floored by the intricate art of gilding. With the loving ways the town and the art is skillfully portrayed, it is so obvious the author must treasure these things since her fondness is evident in every passage. I liked how the book was split into two sections, the 'before' and 'after' as we witness a young girl become a woman. The Gilder is a thoroughly absorbing read and its characters, lush scenery and classic art will remain with you long after its final paragraph.

Rating: Very good!

Favorite excerpt: "The sun was just beginning its slide up over the rooftops as Marina entered Via Luna for the second time. In another hour, it would tumble into the little street, evaporating the puddles she now skirted. When she reached the end of the alley, she noticed, for the first time, a white tile with a blue number twenty-eight just to the left of the door. She stared at it, key in hand, and wondered if she could get her money back. It had only been a few minutes. The money wouldn't be in the bank yet. She would say she'd changed her mind. It wasn't too late to apply for graduate school in the fall, and she could live at home for a while, then find an apartment with friends. In two years, she'd be teaching art history  and maybe a woodcarving class in some cushy prep school in New England. She looked back down the street for a moment, then inserted the key, and stepped inside."

Cover comment: I like it, the vibrant red of the doors, the foliage winding itself around the front of the building and the closed door. We never know what goes on behind closed doors, do we? And not until we open this book and begin Marina's story, do we learn about hers.

Book source: From the publisher for my honest review during a book tour. 


  1. I love the premise of this book and enjoyed the bio on the author which read like a story.

    Thanks for the review!