Book Review: Love, Fiercely
Love, Fiercely: A Gilded Age Romance
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 320 pp., $26
Parts of “Love, Fiercely” read like an opulent novel in the tradition of Edith Wharton’s “The Age of Innocence”; others offer a keen analysis of art and social history. Telling the story of Edie Minturn and Newton Stokes, a couple whose romance embraced the spirit of New York during the Gilded Age of the 1890s, Jean Zimmerman describes their world in tightly focused detail, then pulls back to situate them in turn-of-the-century context. She writes with equal admiration of the art that made the couple lasting icons of their time.
Edith Minturn Stokes, nicknamed “Fiercely,” in her girlhood, was well-traveled and well-educated, and married later in life than most of her peers. At a time when posing for a painting or a sculpture was a daring social risk for a young woman, she did both. Sculptor Daniel Chester French used her likeness for the statue of The Republic that towered over the 1895 World’s Fair. John Singer Sargent painted the couple’s portrait in 1897, the portrait that captured Zimmerman’s curiosity and anchored her research for the book. Drawing from the family’s papers and other historical sources, Zimmerman’s prose makes it easy to imagine the couple, the painting and the New York world they inhabited.