Rosedale in Love – Lev Raphael (Amazon Digital Services)

Buy it now from our store – Rosedale In Love

Wish I could find a good book to live in

Wish I could find a good book

Well if I could find a real good book

I’d never have to come out and look at

What they’ve done to my song…

Melanie Safka, “What Have They Done to My Song, Ma”

I knew, I just knew
the name “Lily Bart” had significance beyond Raphael’s use of the name in this
novel. I didn’t have too look far for the particular epiphany the name begged.
Consider this: Lily Bart was the name given by Edith Wharton—we all know Edith,
right?—who in 1904 published “The House of Mirth,” in which Lily Bart is the
tragic presence. In the novel, Lily so desperately wished to be welcomed into
the world of the fabulously wealthy but—and here, perhaps, was her downfall—she
yearned, too, for mutual love, mutual respect from any number of suitors who
pursued her. Lily Bart epitomized the Gibson
, an idealized representation of the most desirable, and the most
stylish feminine presence within that post-Civil War/Reconstruction era of
American history referred to as the “Gilded Age.”  This was
an age, circa 1870s to 1880s and declining into the first part of the
20th-century, where displays of opulent wealth were unashamedly exercised by
the likes of the Vanderbilts, the Astors, the Goulds, the Rockefellers.

Raphael has taken one of the potential suitors to Miss Bart,
Simon Rosedale—named in the Wharton novel—and has created this enchanting
storytelling that focuses primarily upon 
Rosedale’s infatuation with Miss Bart. Raphael goes further, however,
and provides a telling insight into what it was to be a wealthy Jew amongst the
waspish movers and shakers of New York at this particular time in America’s
history. It is of course important to note that the characters who move through
Raphael’s novel are also named in the Wharton novel: Selden, Trenor, Dorset
and, yes, Rosedale and Bart.

I freely admit I’ve never read Wharton. But somewhere along
the line I’ve heard of Lily Bart…a tragic figure in literature if there ever
was one. Additionally, I do not seek out novels that are somewhat akin to fan
fiction, where the author latches onto characters and, indeed, plot points  already explored in previous works by other
authors. Having said that, I do suspect that Raphael’s intention in writing
“Rosedale in Love” represents his particular passion for enlarging
upon—celebrating even!—a character who might have been given short shrift in
the original storytelling from Wharton. Indeed, Raphael explores, in depth,
Simon Rosedale’s internal struggle to fit in with the swells of the time, to
prove himself worthy of Lily Bart, and to overcome what he believes to be the
scourge of his Jewishness.  

Rosedale’s confessor, friend, advisor in manners and all
things social, is his cousin, Florence Goodhart, who has ensconced herself in
the Waldorf-Astoria. (Raphael takes us to the Waldorf-Astoria, and provides
lovely detail of the magnificent edifice, the interior, the bejeweled and
bedecked denizens who glide so easily through such opulence.) To tell you much
of anything at all about Florence—a character who perhaps warrants as much
discernment as the protagonist, Rosedale—would be gratuitous. Suffice it to say,
Florence is a very, very important character in this novel. I will leave it at

Raphael has done his homework. He has written a very
accurate, studied portrait of the era in which this novel is set. His use of
archaic language is charming, productive for those of us who value the meaning
of words (and, incidentally, don’t mind checking a dictionary to get to that

“Rosedale in Love” is a superbly written historical which,
if Wharton were to emerge incarnate one of these days and pick up Raphael’s
novel, I’m sure at first she’d wonder, “What the hell! Look what he’s done to
my story!” After reading the last word, however, I’m equally sure she’d
conclude that Lev Raphael has built a good home, a good book for her Rosedale,
Bart and the others to live in, a contemporary home where even she, Wharton, is
necessarily celebrated.             

Reviewed by George Seaton

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