Sunday, March 23, 2014

Savage Girl by Jean Zimmerman

In the 1870's, the wealthy were godlike in their ability to do as they chose.  This was the time of the Robber Barons, men like Rockefeller and Vanderbilt amassing legendary fortunes from natural resources.  To those names, add the Delegates, rich beyond belief from their silver mine holdings.  Fredrick Delegate, or Freddy as he preferred to be known, was the family patriarch.  He had two sons, Hugo and Nicky. 

When one is so wealthy, it is easy to become bored.  Wealthy men often seek out the bizarre and uncommon.  Thus it was with Freddy.  His interests ran to human oddities, and the family retinue contained a Chinese woman who had been a concubine and a Native American transgender.  But Freddy's real interest was in what was known as feral children; those humans said to be separated by tragedy from their families and raised by animals.  While visiting their silver mines in Nevada, the family comes across a young woman known as Savage Girl.  She is said to have been raised by wolves and is imprisoned in a sideshow, titillating the desires of men who came to her shows.

The Delegates rescue Savage Girl from the man who keeps her in the show making money from exhibiting her.  Freddy and wife decide that this is the perfect project, turning this feral girl into a New York debutante and proving that nurture overcomes nature.  As the weeks go by, it becomes clear that the girl was captured by Indians in a raid and lived with them for some time; she knows some Comanche language.  Slowly she begins to learn English and tells them her name, Bronwyn.  Hugo is fascinated and repelled in equal parts by Bronwyn.  She is beautiful but there is an air of remoteness about her that keeps people distant. The mysteries surrounding her life seem impenetrable, making her more appealing.   She has secrets that she doesn't share with anyone.  Soon Hugo notices that gruesome murders seem to follow the family as they make their way back to New York.  Are they connected to Bronwyn?  Could she be the murderer?

Jean Zimmerman has written a historical fiction novel that pulls the reader in and gives them a view of the Gilded Age and the wealthy families that ruled the country.  Along the way, the views of Darwin and the strict structures of society are explored.  There is a love story, a crime story, there is something for everyone.  This book is recommended for readers of historical fiction and for mystery lovers alike. 

1 comment:

Book Bloggers International said...

This one is on my TBR list. Looks so good.