Recently I was contacted by the lovely Evelyn from Interpersonal Frequency LLC and was asked if I would be interested in reading an advance copy this: The Season of Second Chances, by Diane Meier
Of course I jumped at the chance (free book!) and was especially excited after I visited Diane's website and read this post on her blog. She seems like a great kindred spirit and I could not wait to get my hands on the book.
As soon as it came I ate it up like it was a wonderful dense chocolate mouse cake. Or something equally yummy. First I would rush through bits,excited to be reading it, then taking my time, savoring the descriptions of houses, style, characters , then rushing through again because I was so in-love with several of the characters I just wanted to learn all I could about them.
But the book is more than just house decorating fluff and love stories. There is a wonderful and refreshing feminist-in-all-the-right-ways vibe and the underlying themes that Home and Style are not frivolous things or afterthoughts, but instead that they are important place holders for our identities & our hearts.
But don't just let me convince how wonderful this book and Diane is, you can experiance them for yourself.
So grab a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, and maybe a little something sweet and join me for my Chat with Diane below.
Diane herself is such a delight and such a refreshing feminish voice that I wanted her to expand on and share with all of us some of the thoughts and themes that were woven into The Season of Second Chances.
Read our little interview below and then make sure to check out all the ways you can enter to win a copy of this lovely book for yourself after the chat!
My Chat with Diane:
JG) I absolutely adored Bernadette Lowell. She reminded in some respects of the author and editor Phyllis Tickle (who I have had the immense pleasure to meet.) I wondered if there was anyone specific that you used for the inspiration for Bernadette, or if she was a compilation of many such women?
I am so delighted that you asked about Bernadette. She’s not really based on any one woman – but – forty years ago, Matina Horner (past president of Radcliffe) created a ground breaking study that proved how female students feared success and undercut their performance at critical times in their development. I married that idea of Horner with the work of and (albeit the two were separated by almost 30 years), to create Bernadette ---- a character that gave us a provable image of ourselves – of women within the culture – so that we could, more clearly, see that the issues we so often found to be personal, and too often took to be our own failings, were actually – and literally – and provably -- examples of prejudice.
Most importantly – Bernadette so captivated me that my next book is expressly about Bernadette. We are on the same wave length!
One more question about Bernadette if you don't mind:
Bernadette is exactly the type of feminist that I aspire to be. When she responded to Joy caring for a sick friend by saying "This is exactly what women do. This is what women have done all through history." I wanted to stand up and cheer. Her voice was so refreshing both to Joy and to me. Are there feminist leaders out there that are saying the same things as Bernadette, or is this book, in some way, a call for this sort of voice to rise up?
Thank you about that line- wanting to be the kind of feminist you see in Bernadette. Me too. If there are other feminists talking about this, I’m not hearing them.
And I certainly didn’t hear them in 1973, when I was much in the thick of it – and regret not a moment of that time. The only women I hear talking about the values of what we might call –“traditional feminine power” now – seem to disassociate themselves from feminism (capital F /Second Wave Feminism) with a kind of terrible, blind arrogance. Have they no sense of history?
We don’t often achieve real change by being moderate, and in the Women’s Movement of the 1960’s and 1970’s, we lost sight of many things that had been the prerogative of women – largely because women had come to master the things we were ‘limited to’. As a class and a gender, we were defined by the roles we were ‘allowed’ to present to the world, and strong-armed from the rest; if not in fact, then certainly in reflection. Who wouldn’t resent such limits? And –as importantly, because the power-culture didn’t truly value our skills, or gifts, we didn’t value them either.
The fact of backlash is probably human, but in fairness, we never truly grappled with child-care, we never really harnessed our consumer power to help move the culture. And only Martha and Oprah (god bless them), stepped into true and unambiguous leadership positions, based specifically on mastering the things -- emotionally connected or skill based – that had been our domain, our kingdoms of home and heart.
Is it possible that those who don’t see their connection to the work of early Feminists, misunderstand how much farther we have to go? I think Theo asks Joy and the Grant Girls, near the end of The Season of Second Chances – how many Fortune 500 CEOs are women. His answer was 12. This year we added to that number – by one. Only one.
It’s a sad and stunning truth, we make up 51% of the population, we are, for the most part and across all economic levels, more educated than men, we graduate higher in our school classes. And we are represented at the top of our fields to the tune of just less than 3%.
We need to keep moving ahead. We need to help one another achieve, and we must learn to appreciate – and value – and use-- the things we bring to the table – largely because of the skill sets we developed while a larger world was kept from our command.
Take a look at the career of Mary Robinson, the first woman President of Ireland. Not only is she credited with many of the policies that brought economic development to her country – she thought to light candles in the windows of the Presidential residence to signal a welcome home to the generations of emigrants who had left a homeland that could not support them. She would beckon them home, and show the whole world that welcome. It wasn’t a gesture that, I believe, a man was likely to have staged. And it was, in my opinion, a move of supremely confident leadership and power. She used all she had.
I hope my books help to clear a path for this kind of conversation – and I thank you so much for encouraging it.
OK, now on to other elements of the book.
There are a lot of descriptions of space in the book - offices, homes of various characters etc. I noticed - as did Joy - that Josie's office decor and her home decor where dramatically different. Why was that?
Josie is an interesting character, isn’t she? She has great personal style. I believe – truly – that “great personal style” has little to do with money (in fact, most of the time, in my opinion, money destroys personal style --). BUT – when you find that rare individual who has truly great taste, a world view, and the money to express it, you find someone who simply will not be categorized. Their lives become installations of art. It’s very, very rare – I’ve met only a few, but their sense of place and style can be expressed in mountain cabins and country cottages and great sprawling modern houses and Asian pavilions – in unique collections of art or artifacts. The bones of the house may tell them what to do – and no matter what direction they take, you still see their mark.
A great art director can work in a huge variety of mediums – and you still see his/her signature – think of Cedric Gibbons, for instance, the marvelous AD of MGM– whether you are talking about “ ” or “An American in Paris” – films that look nothing alike, by the way - there is a kind of polish that no other Art Director delivered. He had an authentic style-signature that transcended style-category.
These rare talents embrace the challenge of different materials and a different voice – knowing that it will still be their voice. I think that there are civilians (albeit a few) with that kind of talent for making their mark – and Josie – in my mind – is one of them. If we start to point them out, maybe we’ll encourage more!
When Laura calls Joy to announce her big news, she credit's Joy for inspiring her to step out and risk love, even at her season of life.
I see this with the women in my life and with myself. It is as if we need "permission" to try new things, new ways of living, thinking and being.
Do you find that to be true?
I don’t know – I’m not sure I see ‘permission’ as a major element of forward movement for most adult women today. Laura needed something to shake her out of her old way of thinking about limits. It’s less permission and more a kind of “Ahh-ha! Moment”, I think, for Laura. You mean, this is still open to me? – I’m still alive!
Our culture suggests that women (and probably men) over a “certain age” have to ‘pack it in’ – when it comes to discovering love or – let’s face it – any degree of emotional growth. And my personal experience would suggest that this is just nonsense.
But – I also think that people who have been hurt (and Joy is a very damaged package through most of this book ), have a need for a kind of assurance that healthy people don’t require.
The house Teddy and Joy restore has a very distinct style. Is that style one of your favorites or did it evolve with the characters? What would you say your decorating style is? If you could recommend one Decorating Book to my readers what would it be?
It may sound odd, but my ‘time’ is Edwardian. There is a kind of “just about to happen” thing--- with the Herter Brothers and , with the world in upheaval and women emerging with a true voice on so many fronts – that speaks to me like no other moment in time. – with Tiffany and the
I am writing to you from my office in a building on Broadway – built by Union Square, in a view that differs – almost not at all – from what it was in 1900. We’ve restored a lot of the look of our office to that moment – 1880 – 1915. See my website for a glimpse or two of the space – www.dianemeier.com. – with floor to ceiling windows -- and looking down at
Our house is from 1830 – and the “new room” was added in 1900. We’re in the process of “doing” the house right now. It’s very rewarding.
There are so many books to recommend – for all different things:
The new Farrow and Ball book about color and design is a great resource. Charlotte Moss’ book on decorating is wonderful. The old classic, My Favorite Things by Dorothy Rogers is a favorite – with illustrations by an illustrator I used and adored 30 years ago -- Jeramiah Goodman. Bunny William’s book is also very very good.
In addition, all the characters had a very distinct personal style as well. What are your thoughts on the role Style plays in our lives? Is it important?
I think that personal – authentic -- style is hugely important. Our lives can be our canvases. This is not to say that style is more important than kindness, or proficiency at your profession, or good values in all you do – but – we do these things within a matrix that is of our own making. And most of the time, we act as though we’re not really in control of that. So – too often, we live with – and among - things we don’t give enough thought to. And things that don’t enhance or express our lives.
If you just approach the environment of your life like a collage – a living, breathing, artistic example of what’s in your heart – think of the impression the world will have of you. Clearer. Fuller. Richer. And most of all - only and distinctly – you – the one thing nothing will ever duplicate.
I really loved this book and hope you will write more. Do you have anything in the works now that we should be looking forward to?
The Lowell Girl. Absolutely.
But first we have to secure a happy, successful home for Joy and Teddy. We thank you for caring about them – as much as you do, and I thank you – especially – for giving me the chance to talk to you and to your “followers”. What a gift.
It would make a great Mother's Day present!
OK, now for the GIVEAWAY (what you have all stuck with me this long for anyway right?)
Here are the ways you can enter:
1) Leave a comment on this post
2) Twitter about this giveaway and link to it (and let me know you did!)
3) Facebook about this giveaway and link to it (and let me know you did!)
4) Blog about this giveaway and link to it also! (and let me know you did)
GIVEAWAY WILL CLOSE AT MIDNIGHT APRIL 10