The caption on the front of this book reads: Husband hunting in the Gilded Age: how American heiresses conquered the aristocracy. Now, whilst I’m aware of the era in question, I have never really read anything further into this period of time, so Transatlantic was a real treat. The book concentrates on a group of wealthy American heiresses who seek to marry into the English aristocracy, specifically during the year 1895. I understand how hard it may be to read it with an open mind, particularly in present day twenty-first century where the idea of husband hunting would quite rightly sound an absurd concept to many, but Julie has painted a rich background and placed some really fascinating characters against a wonderfully atmospheric setting which consumes you as a reader from the very beginning. It is therefore very easy to become swept up in the era, even at times allowing yourself a sense of understanding and indeed sympathy on the part of such women, something I didn’t initially think I would feel for such ‘privileged’ women before I began reading the book. After all, it wasn’t all partying, marrying and living happily ever after. These women really did have to work at it, thus devoting every waking second to their task. It almost consumed them to the point where catching their prey was all they lived for.
I feel at times that this dedication to task could have spurned an underlying annoyance on behalf of the reader, particularly concerning the women’s relentlessness to achieve the most prized possession of all marriages, that is wealth and possible titles. However, Julie manages to balance the obvious glitz and glamour of this privileged society and present another side to it; that of the loneliness of many of these pairings, in particular when love is not even given consideration.
Julie’s decision to concentrate on a group of women and designate a year in the life to chart the highs and lows of their quest, allows the reader to become more involved in the women’s individual journeys. The result is history mixed with a wonderful aspect of storytelling which brings the book, and indeed the lives of its characters, to life.
Perhaps not one of my usual genres, Transatlantic was a real eye-opener. I think many readers will have come across the stories of women marrying in the Gilded Age, but I found Julie’s obvious passion and knowledge of her research astounding and it perhaps enhances and expands on stories that readers may have heard of before. The writing style is fluid and thorough and you feel you are in the extremely capable and knowledgeable hands of the narrator in its entirety.
Having been forced to take Geography instead of History at school, I enjoy being taught snippets of historical information through my reading choices, and this book didn’t fail to disappoint in that respect. For it was here that I learned about Jennie Churchill, Winston Churchill’s Mother, and her position as one of the first transatlantic brides. Furthermore, the beauty of this book for me is that a number of the characters can be viewed in further depth, should the reader feel compelled to study the subject further. This is primarily due to the high levels of research undertaken by Julie that encourages that desire of wanting to find out more. Included in the book is an extensive bibliography, a notes section and family trees, along with a few beautiful photographs which bring the ambience of the era alive.
The Transatlantic Marriage Bureau is very academic in its delivery, but just as wonderful for those curious about this forgone era, making it a very intelligent and captivating read which Julie obviously had fun with throughout its creation.
Many thanks to Julie Ferry and Aurum Press for allowing me to review this wonderful book.
Publish date: 9th February 2017
ISBN Number: 9781781315965
Julie Ferry can be can be found on Twitter @womentoinspire