After reading Women in Red by Jordan Rosenfeld, a two word phrase kept floating in and out of my mind: tragically beautiful. The novel weaves a tangled web that’s full of incredibly vivid language and imagery. At the center of that web is Stella, a former professional ballerina who is struggling to maintain the relationship between her ailing mother Margaret, a former prima ballerina herself, and her musically gifted daughter Izzy. She struggles at low paying restaurant jobs, barely able to rent the violin Izzy needs to practice, before meeting the enigmatic Julien. Julien offers her a chance at two things she desperately craves: the chance to perform for an audience again and a way to support her mother and daughter.
There’s just one catch. Stella must pledge herself to Julien’s company, Frivolity, Inc., and yield to it above all things – including her family.
“You’re my star, Stella. I’ve been looking for a long time, and I found you.”
Stella shivered. “What was all that vow stuff about?”
Julien didn’t answer for a good long minute, leaving Stella to wonder if she’d offended him
“I take this company very seriously, Stella. It’s everything to me.”
From the moment Stella takes those vows, the unusual and mysterious nature of Julien, his company, and the women he employs begins to unravel around Stella. From beginning to end, the book will have you questioning what you think you know – the exotic and alluring pull of Frivolities, Inc. will captivate you even as its inner workings begin to show their dark side.
Rosenfeld has done an incredible job creating a world of characters that will make you feel both intrigue and empathy. The story juxtaposes incredibly lavish scenes, almost dreamlike in their descriptions, with the tragic reality of Stella’s past and present. Three generations of women, Margaret, Stella, and Izzy, are all trying to come to terms with the choices they’ve made and the choices that were made for them. Margaret and Stella – both professional ballerinas who chose motherhood at the peak of their careers – are grappling with the harsh reality of the lives they left behind.
Woven throughout their three storylines is the mystery of Frivolities, Inc. Julien, the ringleader of the elaborate and strange performances, commits his whole self to the mission of his company, but how far will he go to find what he’s seeking? The scenes that Rosenfeld crafts are both beautiful and mysterious, inspiring vibrant visions of an otherworldly place that can only be found if you know where to look:
Half of the windows in the ancient building were shattered, and the cement of the parking lot was buckled and cracked… The front entrance was propped open with a pedestal bowl full of white camellias floating in water, but the entrance was dark… She had a sudden suspicion that people weren’t even supposed to be there… When she put her hand through the curtain and pushed her body after it, she was greeted by a rose-colored spotlight and an audience of people dressed in evening gowns and tailored suits all staring at her.
Reading Women in Red feels like an adventure from start to finish. Lost loves, shattered dreams, mysterious disappearances: Women in Red has it all. Rosenfeld will have you on the edge of your seat, but along the way she will also remind you of the redeeming power of relationships. This novel has something for everyone, and I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone looking for an exciting read.