Monday, November 16, 2020

Book Review: A Fall of Marigolds by Susan Meissner

A Fall of MarigoldsA Fall of Marigolds.  Susan Meissner.  Penguin (2014). 370 pages.  Genre: Historical Fiction.

First Lines:  "Manhattan.  September 2011.  The length of floral-patterned challis rested on the cutting table like a bridal bouquet undone."

Summary:  This novel tells the stories of two women who lived through two horrific events ninety years apart.  

Taryn was in Manhattan heading to meet her husband for breakfast on 9/11/01 when the south tower of the World Trade Center collapsed.  Her husband was in that tower.  Taryn should have been there as well, but she was delayed.  She had discovered that she was pregnant and texted her husband about meeting her for breakfast at the top of the south tower so she could tell him the news.  

Clara was a young nurse working on the third floor of the Asch Building in New York.   In the same building, several floors up, was the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory.  Clara had met Edward Brim in the elevators.  He worked for the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory.  He was very kind to her and she began looking forward to running into him.  He had asked her if she would like a tour of the factory and she was supposed to meet him the day the fire broke out.  Clara was able to get out of the building, but Edward was on the ninth floor where he was supposed to meet Clara and was not able to escape the fire.  

The one thing that connects their stories is a beautiful copper-colored scarf covered in marigolds.

My thoughts:  I had read recommendations for this book, but kept putting off reading it.  So, for 2020, I put it on a list of books I wanted to be sure and read this year.  

Susan Meissner tells a good story.  I kept reading because I wanted to know what happened.  

The bulk of the book tells Clara's story.  We only get a few chapters telling Taryn's story.  This was okay.  It was enough to help the reader know her story and connect it with Clara's story.  Part of the reason I kept putting this off was that I really didn't want to read an indepth story about someone who went through 9/11.  Taryn definitely did live through that day and we are given a good idea of what she went through, but it is brief.  

Clara's story is tragic, but I kept thinking that she was rather naive.  I don't want to give away too much of the story, but I felt like she was living in a dream land.  I kept reading because some things began to be revealed.  One of the themes in the story was that things are not always as they seem and this led to several twists and turns and unexpected happenings.  

I didn't know much about the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, so it was interesting to learn about it.  After the fire, Clara took a job working on Ellis Island.  It was interesting to learn a little about the hospitals there.  The hospitals treated immigrants who got off ships and were ill.  One of the characters gets off a ship that had several passengers die of Scarlet Fever.  There is one wing of the hospital that is a quarantine ward for passengers who were on ships with contagious illnesses.  It was interesting to see the protocols the doctors and nurses went through to protect themselves from illness.

Both of these characters go through some really hard situations that are vividly shown.  It was definitely quite sad in places.  But, at the same time, the story is filled with hope.  Both characters grow over the course of the book and end up in a good place at the end.  It left me wanting to know what happens next.  


  1. Good review! I've never read any books by this author.

    1. Hi Kathy! This ikewas the first book I have read by this author. I believe she just had a new one come out this year. After reading this one, I would like to read more by her.

  2. I like Meissner's writing and enjoyed your review. You'd probably enjoy Blue Heart Blessed.

    1. Thanks for the recommendation Robin! I'll check that one out.