Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Glassblower (The Glassblower Trilogy Book 1)

Title:  The Glassblower (The Glassblower Trilogy Book 1)
Author:  Petra Durst-Benning (Author), Samuel Willcocks (Translator)
Publication Information:  AmazonCrossing. 2014. 496 pages.
ISBN:  1477820272 / 978-1477820278

Book Source:  I received this book as a publisher's galley through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Favorite Quote:  "We don't always find happiness where we expect it. Sometimes we have to approach it the long way around ... And sometimes happiness is somewhere else entirely."

The Glassblower is the story of the three Steinmann sisters - Johanna, Ruth, and Marie. They have survived the loss of their mother. Joost Steinmann runs a glassblowing business, and his daughters work with him. The death of their father, however, leaves them at a crossroads. How will they survive? What will they do? Johanna wishes for independence. Ruth wishes for love and marriage. Marie wishes to draw and paint. The paths they take lead them to joys and sorrows and to directions they never envisioned.

The most fascinating part of the book for me is the history. Apparently, blown glass ornaments were invented in the town of Laschua, Germany in the nineteenth century - the setting for this book. Frank Winfield Woolworth, the founder of the FW Woolworth Company, was responsible for bringing these glass ornaments to the United States in the 1880s. He enabled a huge expansion of the industry and made a fortune selling the ornaments. FW Woolworth features in this book as it tells this history from the perspective of its very personal impact on one family. A few key names and terms in the book and a little research reveal this history.

The descriptions of glassblowing in the book are also fascinating. The book seamlessly weaves them through the actions and conversations of the characters. For example, did you know that silver nitrate, a corrosive and potentially toxic substance, was used in a solution to coat the glasswork before painting? Short term exposure to silver nitrate is not dangerous; however, long term exposure to a concentrated solution can cause burns and eye damage. Did you know that glassblowers made prosthetic eyes and that people would travel great distances because of the reputation of the glassblower? The eyes were custom made for each person - blown, painted, and fit individually. Although no longer made from glass, prosthetic eyes are often still referred to as "glass eyes" because of this history.

My least favorite part of the book is unfortunately the sisters themselves. The characters do not seem to evolve through the book; they appear the same from beginning to end. The premise of three young women surviving and defining their own way in what is still a male dominated society and profession is a positive one. Unfortunately, the focus of the book is not their endeavors in that profession. It is more about their relationships with the men they encounter along the way. Warning:  this book does include some sexual scenes including a rape and abuse. These descriptions are not necessary to the book. Enough obstacles exist - the death of their father, economic hardship, the difficulty of living as independent women at that time. The gratuitous sex scenes and the focus on those relationships are unnecessary. Without these scenes, the book would get a higher rating from me. The book does eventually get to independence and the business endeavors of the Steinmann sisters, but not until much of the way through this almost 500 page book.

According to its description, the book is part one of a trilogy. I did learn while reading this book, but will probably not read books 2 and 3 as the history in the book proves more interesting than the characters. I don't need to know what happens to the sisters next.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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