Book Review for “The Grand Design” by Joy Callaway.
Summary: “1908: The Greenbrier has been Dorothy Tuckerman’s escape for as long as she can recall—a summer resort nestled in West Virginia where American aristocracy can just be, a retreat surrounded by wilderness, unprotected by gates . . . a place completely unlike her home in Tuxedo Park, New York. This season, however, she’s nineteen, and the summer comes riddled with expectations that threaten to trap her within another set of walls—including an unwelcome marriage proposal from a family friend. But when an Italian racecar driver, Enzo Rossi, appears at The Greenbrier with his uncle, a former financial minister of Italy, igniting suspicion and upending everyone’s plans, Dorothy must come to terms with her definition of liberty, the price it may cost to be truly free, and a newly ignited passion to transform the very walls that once held her captive. Thirty-eight years later, Dorothy Draper returns to her beloved resort as the head of the first ever interior design firm, world famous and divorced from her high-profile physician husband. But The Greenbrier of 1946 is hardly the glamorous place she once knew. Transformed into a hospital during the war, the hotel is beaten, sterile, and in complete shambles. As Dorothy struggles to complete the most important project of her career, old secrets surface—secrets that threaten to snag the very fabric of the life she’s built—and she must come face to face with the girl she once was, the woman she’s become, and the resort that changed it all.”
Age: Adult; Genres: Literary, Women, Fiction; Settings: Historical; US – West Virginia; Other Categories: Novel, Biographical, Art: Interior Design, Romance.
I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
If you start reading this novel and immediately give out a sigh that maybe you’ve mistakenly picked up a wholly romance novel, I can hear you! However, only part of the book leans heavily on the romance elements. When you’ve reached the chapters that start in 1946, you’ll be out of that mode! Sadly, when the story reverts back to the 1908 parts, you might feel a bit disappointed. Yes, I get why Callaway did this, but I found Dorothy’s whole infatuation with Rossi to be distracting, even though I can understand that some background into Dorothy’s youth was a good idea. What I wanted was to concentrate on Dorothy’s renovating of the Greenbrier Resort. My thinking is that this earlier story arc would have been just as effective if it had been done as shorter flashbacks rather than whole chapters set in the earlier year. This was exactly how Callaway dealt with the intervening years, which include Dorothy’s marriage and divorce with Dan Draper, and I found those inclusions both insightful and well centered.
I should mention that Callaway’s writing was necessarily very descriptive, especially when it came to décor and fashion. This was particularly present when she described the dilapidated Greenbriar Resort as Dorothy surveyed the shell which she was about to renovate. Together with this, her descriptions of Dorothy’s vision for the renovations nicely appeared in my imagination, and for the most part, I could envision each element. Now, as they say, there’s no account for taste, so I’m not going to lower my rating of this novel because I don’t think I could stomach spending even an hour inside some of these rooms, let alone a whole vacation there. I mean, yeah, mid-century modern was very bright, and Draper took that word to new heights. However, that’s not me, and frankly, I prefer to be surrounded by more neutral tones with only pops of accent colors than this highly whimsical, almost circus-like, gaudy color-palette (which you can see here for yourself). But that’s just me.
So, I’m a bit of two minds about this book. On the one hand, all of the 1908 stuff was far too romantic for my taste, and I much preferred the post-war era chapters. That said, because Callaway’s writing was so lovely, I would have liked more of those sections that described the many varied designs that Draper used in this renovation. Believe me, if you click on the link above, you’ll see just how different each area looks, and more about the development of her visions would have really made this novel for me. Not that I didn’t want to know more about Dorothy as a person, because that was just as important. For all of this, I’ve been wavering between 3 and 4 stars, and I think I should just go with the middle ground of 3.5 stars, mostly because of the quality of the writing. I’m certainly going to recommend it, but with the caveat that lovers of historical romance might enjoy this more than I.
Harper Muse released “The Grand Design” (aka The Greenbrier Resort) by Joy Callaway on May 17, 2022. This book is available (via the following affiliate links) from Amazon, Foyles, The Book Depository UK and Book Depository US (both with free worldwide delivery), Waterstones, WHSmith, Wordery UK and Wordery US, Kobo US (eBooks and audiobooks), the website eBooks.com, Booksamillion.com, iTunes (iBooks and audiobooks), new or used from Alibris, used from Better World Books (promoting libraries and world literary), as well as from as well as from Bookshop.org and UK.Bookshop (to support independent bookshops, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic) or an IndieBound store near you. I would like to thank the publishers for sending me an ARC of this novel via NetGalley.