Our Kind of People
May 31, 2021

Book Review

Our Kind of People

1874. Helen Wilcox’s family roots go back to the Dutch settlers. She did not meet her husband Joshua through the New York society. Instead, he comes from upriver, with no family money and no helpful relatives. As a result, the society members distance themselves from Helen as they refuse out flat to be associated with a stable boy as Joshua is called, and as they claim to be obligated to maintain family’s standards.

Now, her daughter Jemima is on the brink of entering society, which poses some challenges. The US might be a democracy, but the NY society is run by a self-appointed committee judge on whom Helen’s daughter’s entry to Dancing Classes depends, which further allows her to come out into society and find a husband. Furthermore, those social events are costly and the money in the Wilcox family starts being an issue.

Joshua was forced to find an acceptable position when he married Helen. Now, the an owner of a transport company, his newest venture with the Hudson Elevated Railroad isn’t earning money fast enough. Thus, he is forced to borrow, making risky decisions, which leads him to a ruthless businessman Felix Castle. Felix is clever but scandalous, and a stock speculator. And there is more: he also promotes the careers of some of the female singers. His vulgar taste of house design and bright carriage with four horses doesn’t help his reputation.

Joshua’s risky ventures and Felix’s callousness make it an edgy read. Helen trying to make amends between her husband and mother and her resourcefulness in trying to save money with household expenses to help her husband bring a touching tone to the story. She is between fitting and defying the society, which makes her very human. All characters are likeable, including Felix who is ruthless, but there is a tinge of humanity in him. It upsets him that Joshua could put his family in such risky situation. Joshua as a man wanted to support his family, but it turned out the other way around as he was forced to find an acceptable position for which he needed investment. He had his own business and a plan, but it didn’t fit the acceptability of the society and his mismanagement of the acceptable venture might be the ruin of his family. All three characters are authentic in their depiction who try to fit or defy the standards of society.

Our Kind of People gives a vivid portrayal of a closely guarded society, engrossingly depicted characters with crisp narrative colored with humor. The society’s strict rules present an uptight atmosphere giving an authentic feel appropriate for this storyline.

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