Jean Zimmerman’s new novel, Savage Girl, is the ideal historical fiction narrative: The history is accurate, and the story fits neatly into the facts.
The novel opens as Hugo Delegate, son of an outrageously wealthy captain of industry, is found next to the mutilated body of one of his friends. Because he cannot, or perhaps will not, explain why he was found at such a gruesome scene, he is taken into custody and asked to tell his side of the story.
Savage Girl is alluring mystery set in one of the most fascinating times and places in American history.
Hugo tells a complex tale to his attorney about a mysterious girl that the Delegate family adopted while visiting their silver mines in Nevada. The Delegates attend a “freak show” where a girl who was purportedly raised by wolves puts on a somewhat provocative show for the drifters and miners every night. Anna-Maria Delegate, Hugo’s mother, wants to adopt the savage girl, named Brownyn, and save her from this hardly human existence.
After some complex negotiations with Bronwyn's owner, the family brings her back to New York City in their opulent private rail cars (all 13 of them), and get to work assimilating her into high society. However, tragedy seems to follow Bronwyn: Every time a man takes a romantic interest in her, he ends up dead. Is Bronwyn to blame with her survivalist upbringing and aggressive, animal-like instincts? Or is Hugo a jealous “brother” whose psychological well-being is teetering on the brink?
Zimmerman’s detailed descriptions of over-the-top Park avenue townhouses and sinfully gorgeous French ballgowns are captivating, but in addition to these more superficial signs of the time, she touches on industrial-age philosophical and economic issues, resulting in a book that is not just entertaining and suspenseful, but a thorough observation of America’s Gilded Age. Savage Girl is alluring mystery set in one of the most fascinating times and places in American history.