I wish to inspire readers, teachers, and book clubs to bake along with their reading and promote discussion about the books we've enjoyed.
An Embellished Story of a True Event
Louis Comfort Tiffany has built an artist’s retreat that boasts a priceless collection of his windows, lamps, and tiled architecture. Here, artists are free to “abandon tradition, disregard the confines of your speciality, and seek fresh inspiration” for eight weeks. And there is a prize for the winner of the final art contest. Jenny Bell’s wealthy best friend and roommate Minx entered her for a place at this year’s summer art studio, where both women are accepted. But Jenny has a sordid past, one she can’t share with the boyfriend she left behind, who is determined to uncover her dark secret, nor with her roommate. Then she meets Tiffany’s grandson, Oliver. Suddenly she sees life in color again, like the day she first saw a Tiffany stained glass window in a mausoleum when escaping one of the rages of her violent, alcoholic stepfather. Her secret relationship challenges her romantically and artistically, and soon a great tragedy will befall them all. Tiffany Blues is a creative answer to the mysterious question of how the real Laurelton Hall came to be burned in a fire after many years of neglect, and an embellished, thrilling story of the lives of the artists who might have studied there.
- Despite all her dressing up and embellishments, what was Minx longing for that she couldn’t name and didn’t know how to satisfy? Why did she push Jenny into so many things, even without asking? Why did Jenny hate to be pitied so much?
- What was the significance of ouija boards and Edison’s special phone? Did they really communicate with the dead in this story? How had “the Industrial Revolution, with its emphasis on science, fueled a contrary interest in what was impossible to quantify and to know”?
- With whom did Jenny play the game of assigning colors to sounds? What colors did she give to the voices of Ben, Oliver, or Mr. Tiffany? Why did Jenny continue this practice? Are there any sounds you would ascribe certain colors to?
- What problems did Jenny have with the press and why? Why would she choose a job drawing for a newspaper then?
- Why did Jenny disagree with Keats about beauty equaling truth, believing instead that it can be a great lie, yet that made her that much more interested in beauty? What beautiful lies did she tell or believe?
- What other famous minds believed, like Oliver, that “some of us are more adept than others” at picking up on the energy waves that our brains emit, much in the way a radio picks up sound waves? Do you agree with him? Why or why not? What were the Tiffany Blues? What happened to them?
- Why did Mr. Tiffany believe that “some of us are born with that desire to discover or create, while others simply are not”? Was there anyone he overlooked? What “drives us to try to re-create what we see even when we know we can never really do nature justice”?
- How had death impacted Mr. Tiffany to think that “death is why we paint, why we sculpt, why we write music and books. Not to leave something behind, as most people think, but to distract us from the truth of what is coming, from what is inevitable”? Do you think Jenny agreed with him, or did she have other reasons for painting? What bout Minx’s reasons, or Oliver’s, or Edward’s?
- What exercise involving worry did Jenny’s aunt Grace teach her that helped her conquer it for the rest of the day? Is that something you would try?
- Was Jenny’s sacrifice for her mother and brother worth it? Could she have known how things would turn out?
- Why did Minx help Edward cheat? What hold did he have on her?
- How does “Light,” as Mr. Tiffany said, “come through the cracks in our souls, and that’s our art?”
- What deal did Jenny agree to with Mr. Tiffany, and under what terms?
- What piece of art or of Laurelton Hall do you think was Jenny’s favorite? Which would you most have liked to see?
A popular drink at the clubs Minx and Jenny attended was a sidecar, which is made with cognac, orange liqueur, and lemon juice.
One of the frequent breakfasts Jenny and Minx ate was toast with jam, particularly blueberry jam. Minx would make “one for herself using twice the amount of jam to satisfy her sweet tooth.”
To combine the lemon juice and blueberry jam, plus the color of the Tiffany Blues, I created a Blueberry Jam and Lemon Muffin recipe. You could substitute the lemon juice for 1/2 cup of milk, if desired, or use any flavor of jam, or none.
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) salted butter, melted
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 large or 3 small lemons, zested and juiced
- 1/2 cup vanilla or plain Greek yogurt or sour cream, at room temperature
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 12 tsp blueberry jam
- Preheat your oven to 325° F. In the bowl of a stand mixer on medium speed, combine sugar, lemon zest, and melted butter for one to two minutes until thoroughly mixed. In a separate bowl, stir together the flour and baking powder. To the mixer, add the Greek yogurt and vanilla extract and mix for one minute. Drop the speed to low and add half of the flour mixture a little at a time. Add the lemon juice, followed by one egg. Mix for half a minute, then add the rest of the flour and the last egg. Mix on medium-low just until all the flour disappears and appears mixed in. Stop the mixer to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a spatula if any of the flour is sticking to the walls of the bowl.
- In a paper-lined (or well oil-sprayed) muffin tin, dollop a a heaping tablespoon of muffin batter into each muffin well. Use a teaspoon to place a dollop of blueberry jam on top (try to aim for the center) of each of these scoops of batter. Spoon the remaining batter evenly onto the tops of the jam muffins. Bake for about 19-22 minutes or until the sides of the muffins begin to turn brown. Makes about 1 dozen muffins.
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Authors mentioned within this book are Edna St Vincent Millay, Keats, Arthur Conan Doyle, Mark Twain, as well as the novels by Edith Wharton: The Age of Innocence and False Dawn.
The Ghost Orchid by Carol Goodman also features the locale of a creative retreat, this one for writers, where a mystery waits to be unraveled, especially after an enigmatic seance. Arcadia Falls, also by Carol Goodman, is a mystery set in upstate New York featuring artists and writers and a tragedy to be uncovered.
The Masterpiece by Fiona Davis is also about artists who lived in the early twentieth century and the passions and obsessions their art created.
Oliver Tiffany is very much like an injured soldier from The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, who also had shrapnel in his leg, and creates a soft spot in the heart of the book’s reader.
The main character in The Dinner List by Rebecca Serle also buys a painting made by the one she loves, and their story unravels in an unconventional way around the other mixed tragedies of her life.
“Patterns, be they found in events, in nature, even in the stars...are proof of history repeating itself. If we see randomness, it is only because we don’t yet recognize the pattern.”
“I designated colors to sounds that I found interesting or appealing, curious or disturbing.”
“The press exploits our lives to sell more papers. It ignores our humanity...We need the news, of course. But people’s lives aren’t entertainment. Or they shouldn’t be.”
“You’re awfully direct, aren’t you?” “Yes...but anything else is a waste of time.”
“We can romanticize the unknown far too easily. It is much harder but more satisfying to assign wonder to what we were familiar with.”
“Art’s purpose...is to inspire wonder and awe.”
“The Industrial Revolution, with its emphasis on science, fueled a contrary interest in what was impossible to quantify and to know.”
“Grief is the price we pay for love.”
“Too much worry keeps you from being happy.”
“We’re all broken in one way or another, but it’s through the cracks in our souls that the light comes through. And the light, that’s our art.”
“I could survive the worst grief I’d ever known, not only survive but create despite it.”
© 2018 Amanda Lorenzo
Naude Lorenzo on September 18, 2018:
Lovely book and recipe, it is a good thing I have kids for neighbors, they are enjoying all of these muffins, I don't know how Amanda can read and come out with these delicious recipes, My neighbors are not complaining, so thanks Amanda, keep them coming.