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The transformation / Catherine Chidgey.

By: Chidgey, Catherine, 1970-.
Material type: materialTypeLabelBookPublisher: Wellington [N.Z.] : Victoria University Press, 2003Description: 352 pages ; 21 cm.Content type: text Media type: unmediated Carrier type: volumeISBN: 0864734654 (pbk.) :.Subject(s): New Zealand fiction -- 21st century | General fiction | New Zealand fiction -- 20th century | Hairdressing -- 19th century -- Fiction | Hotels, motels, etc. -- Fiction | Triangles (Interpersonal relations) -- Fiction | New Zealand fiction | United States -- History -- 19th Century -- Fiction | New Zealand -- Fiction | Florida -- History -- Fiction | New Zealand -- Fiction -- 21st century | Tampa (Fla.) -- FictionGenre/Form: Historical fiction. | New Zealand fiction -- 21st century. | New Zealand fiction. | New Zealand fiction, 21st century.DDC classification: NZ823.2 Subject: Tampa, Florida, 1898: a frontier where the old world meets the new, and where miracles of transformation are possible. Dominating the town is the new Tampa Bay Hotel, with its tangle of Moorish minarets, cupolas and arches, its Byzantine domes and thirteen crescent moons, and its electric lighting designed by Edison. This fairy-tale castle anchored by the water's edge is a winter magnet for the best sorts of people - bankers and industrialists, stockbrokers and shipping merchants, attorneys and architects and celebrities who come form the big northern cities and from Europe.But the hotel does have one permanent year-round resident, a most exotic creature by the name of Monsieur Lucien Goulet III, wig-maker to the rich and glamorous, and indeed to any resident of Tampa whose desire for the transformations he creates is keen enough to meet his price.
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Novel.

Tampa, Florida, 1898: a frontier where the old world meets the new, and where miracles of transformation are possible. Dominating the town is the new Tampa Bay Hotel, with its tangle of Moorish minarets, cupolas and arches, its Byzantine domes and thirteen crescent moons, and its electric lighting designed by Edison. This fairy-tale castle anchored by the water's edge is a winter magnet for the best sorts of people - bankers and industrialists, stockbrokers and shipping merchants, attorneys and architects and celebrities who come form the big northern cities and from Europe.But the hotel does have one permanent year-round resident, a most exotic creature by the name of Monsieur Lucien Goulet III, wig-maker to the rich and glamorous, and indeed to any resident of Tampa whose desire for the transformations he creates is keen enough to meet his price.

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Excerpt provided by Syndetics

I begin by weaving a net. It must be light yet strong, and the tension exactly judged: too tight is as dangerous as too loose. This is a trick which takes many years to master -- it consumed my childhood, as well as those years when a man should be selecting a bride -- but once it is learned, all society is at one's command, and any price may be asked. My tiny nets, my little foundations of holes, are as fine as gossamer; neither pins nor messy adhesives are required to keep them in place. A simple adjustment of springs is all that is necessary to maintain the tension, but this is a painless procedure, and the devices are quite invisible. In my trade, the net is known as a caul. Perhaps you associate this word with the piece of skin which is sometimes found clinging to the skulls of newborn children, and which is kept as a charm against drowning? I like to think my hand-woven cauls similarly lucky; I like to consider myself a maker of charms. You will see no sign above my door save my name, for many of my customers value their privacy, but my trade card is more illuminating: Monsieur Lucien Goulet III Manufacturer of Ladies' Imperceptible Hair-Pieces & Gentlemen's Invisible Coverings Some in my profession sneer at these terms, dismissing them as old-fashioned. People need to know what one is selling, they say. Call the thing by its true name. Wig. Toupee. It's a matter of honesty. I, however, am an old-fashioned man, and prefer to maintain a certain mystique. Besides, my customers are more comfortable in my coy hands than in those of a common tradesman. Imperceptibility, invisibility: these are my areas of expertise. If you can afford the price, I can work miracles. I can take years off your life. Part I This Side of Heaven February 1898 With its tangle of Moorish minarets, cupolas, and arches, its Byzantine domes and its thirteen crescent moons, the Tampa Bay Hotel was a fairy-tale castle anchored at the water's edge. It was open only a few months a year, and during the immense summers it stood empty, its glittering roofs blinding even the crows. From December through April, however, it was full of the best sorts of people: bankers and industrialists, stockbrokers and shipping merchants, attorneys and architects, and a number of celebrities. They came from the big northern cities and from Europe, these guests, each man accompanied by a sleek wife. Any children they brought with them were, like the Hotel maids, silent until asked to speak. Wealthy invalids came, too: women of delicate constitution and sensitive nerves, feeble second sons, consumptives, rheumatics, all ordered south by physicians weary of the illnesses of the rich, whether phantom or genuine. Florida was a place where wonders could happen, where there was no winter worth mentioning, and where the soil was so fertile that dry sticks took root and flowered like Aaron's staff. Heart cases did well there. Once inside the gates of the Tampa Bay Hotel there was no need to leave, no reason to venture into the dirty, dangerous parts of town, where the Negroes and Latins lived. It was a city unto itself, with a drugstore, a schoolhouse, a barbershop, a newsstand, a beauty salon, and a telegraph office. There were spa facilities, an exposition hall, a casino, a bowling alley, tennis and croquet courts, kennels and stables. Every room had a telephone, hot and cold running water, and electric lighting designed by Edison himself. The grounds contained one hundred and fifty varieties of tropical plants and were so vast that porters were available to squeeze the lazier guests into rickshaws, transporting them like luggage along the ornamental walkways so that they could admire the peacocks and the mirror pool. To the north and the west lay the wilderness, which an army of gardeners kept at bay, and which shook with easy quarry: trout, alligators, tarpon, egrets, plover, deer, and snakes. Upon one's return to the Hotel these could be cooked by the chef, fashioned into a handbag, secured to a hat, or stuffed by the resident taxidermist. Marion Unger stood at her window on Fortune Street brushing her hair. Across the river she could see the Tampa Bay Hotel gleaming like quicksilver under the February sun, and if she lowered her gaze to the water's surface she could watch the entire structure rippling and dissolving, then reassembling itself. She had come to Tampa because of the Hotel, not as a guest but as a bricklayer's bride, and she had watched the resort grow to one-quarter of a mile from its foundation stone. She had married Jack at the age of nineteen, almost ten years before, and at their wedding in Detroit she had worn a crown of orange blossoms, as if Florida had claimed her already. She had wanted to put the flowers in water before she went to bed, but she could not untangle them from her hair without tearing the petals, catching them in the white-blond strands. "Don't worry," said Jack. "You can have as many orange blossoms as you like once we're in Tampa. Come here." And he opened the starchy sheets to her, and she climbed into the cool, high bed. The next weeks were spent preparing for their departure. As Marion filled her trunk with her new clothes, the clothes of a wife, she tried to imagine what her life would be like so far south, on the edge of that low-lying peninsula. At breakfast each morning, she thought, when she would wear her new silk kimono, she and Jack would drink juice the color of the sun, and she would make him orange marmalade and her mother's orange cake -- the secret was the zest, rubbed as fine as sand -- and if it were ever cold enough to light a fire she would sprinkle the kindling with curls of peel and their house would be warm and spicy. She folded the burial robe she had sewn as part of her trousseau, admiring the tiny tucks in the bodice, the hand-made lace at the wrists and throat. It seemed a shame she could not wear it as a nightgown; the satin felt so luxurious to the touch. On top of the neat pile of clothes she placed the woollen stockings her mother had knitted, although Jack said she would never need them, and that she was foolish to take such things along. They arrived in the summer of 1888, when there was no grand resort and no bridge, just acres of swamp and underbrush to be cleared, and alligators prowling the sandy streets, and serpents stirring in the palmetto scrub. Marion had never known such heat. The wild orange trees were bright with ripening fruit, and the air clung to her skin. "We'll get used to it -- everyone does," said Jack, his brow glossy, his cheeks too flushed. "And come hurricane season, you'll long for this calm." He meant it as a joke, but Marion was too hot to laugh. As he led her into their house she thought of her hometown, where the hottest weather was smoothed by its passage across the Great Lakes. From the Hardcover edition. Excerpted from The Transformation by Catherine Chidgey All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Reviews provided by Syndetics

Library Journal Review

The title of New Zealander Chidgey's third novel (after The Strength of the Sun) refers both to a hairpiece and to the lives of the primary characters. Louis Goulet III, a French maker of hairpieces and other hair accessories in late 19th-century Tampa, FL, narrates most of the story. Given his role as perruquier, Goulet is a confidant of many but also someone who trades on the information he receives. His ongoing quest for new sources of human hair turns to obsession when he meets the beautiful young widow Marion Unger; their relationship leads to a bizarre entrapment at the novel's conclusion. While Chidgey's writing is evocative, there is sometimes too much symbolism. Furthermore, the pacing is lacking, and voluminous descriptions of wig and cigar making detract from the story. While Goulet is an interesting character, his voice repels rather than compels the reader. This book will interest large and regional collections for its evocations of Florida in its frontier days, but it is not generally recommended.-Caroline Hallsworth, City of Greater Sudbury, Ont. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publishers Weekly Review

Swampy late?19th-century Tampa Bay is the unlikely romantic setting for this poignant historical novel by New Zealander Chidgey (The Strength of the Sun). Upon the construction of the Tampa Bay Hotel, a Byzantine fairy tale castle that soon attracts fashionable winter travelers, three eccentric American-made personalities descend on the town: a wig maker, a cigar factory worker and a Detroit widow. Marion Unger, a young Detroit wife, had arrived with her bricklayer husband, Jack, who helped build the hotel; he dies soon after its completion. In mourning, Marion finds her way to inimitable Parisian perruquier Lucien Goulet III, recently installed in the Tampa area to make his fortune; he weaves a memorial bracelet for her out of her hair and her late husband's, and becomes obsessed by her white-blonde tresses. Meanwhile, a Cuban immigrant teenager Rafael MEndez, employed as a roller in the local Ybor City cigar factory, is intent on aiding his country in the throes of revolution. When Rafael goes to work at night for the conniving Goulet picking through people's trash to search for hanks of hair he meets the chaste, rather naOve Marion and falls in love with her. A transformation is the sort of stupendous architectural hairpiece designed by M. Goulet, but here it also stands for the changes ushering in a motley new society. Incorporating her research with an organic touch, Chidgey constructs a tale as enchanting as the hotel rising from its Florida swamp. Agent, Kim Witherspoon. (May 6) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Booklist Review

Whether called a peruke, a postiche, or a toupee, in the hands of wig-maker Lucien Goulet III, it's a transformation. A foundling who learned his trade in Paris (and left the body of his master, dead at his hands, behind), he's the sole year-round resident of the resplendent Tampa Bay Hotel in 1898. An unlikely trio forms: 15-year-old Cuban -cigar-maker Rafael Mendez, hired by Goulet to recover hair clippings, becomes smitten with Marion Unger, a young widow with white-blond hair with whom Goulet has become obsessed and for whom he wants to design the grandest transformation of all. Chidgey specializes in intertwining the lives of unlikely characters, as she did in The Strength of the Sun (2002), and it works to a point here. But the going is sometimes slow, and the close is a letdown. However, the historical details--notably about the hotel and its role in the Spanish-American War--add interest, as does the spiritualism practiced by a group of women that includes Marion (and, she learns, her late husband's lover). --Michele Leber Copyright 2005 Booklist

Kirkus Book Review

A sinister French wigmaker plies his trade in late-19th-century Florida: New Zealander Chidgey's third outing (after The Strength of the Sun, 2002, etc.). Foundling Lucien Goulet learned his craft in Paris from a perruqier who took him on as an apprentice. Over time, Goulet's work excelled that of his master, who claimed it as his own--so Goulet murdered him and fled to America. Thus far the tale bears a striking resemblance to Patrick SÜskind's Perfume, which also featured a Parisian foundling with an extraordinary gift who progressed to murder; but Chidgey lacks SÜskind's ability to integrate the lore of a trade with a killer storyline. In 1895, after lying low for a year, Goulet establishes himself as a wigmaker at the spectacular Tampa Bay Hotel, setting for the climax. Parallel plotlines focus on Marion Unger, a young American widow with gorgeous white-blond hair, and Rafael MÉndez, a Cuban teenager and apprentice cigar-maker. It's hair, of course, that brings them together by maddeningly slow degrees. Marion commissions a commemorative hair bracelet from Goulet, who later hires Rafael to scour refuse for hair clippings. When Marion catches him going through her trash, it's not exactly meeting cute, but she's gracious, and Rafael develops a serious crush on her. Unfortunately, readers are constantly drawn away from this welcome romantic interest by Goulet's pronouncements on the hair business and the stupidity of women. When Marion asks for a "transformation," he's ecstatic; she means a few extra curls, but Goulet, exhibiting a carnal joy in hair of such delicacy, produces a massive wig, even kidnapping a little girl to harvest more white-blond hair. Marion rejects the wig. Will this fire up Goulet's killer instincts? In the event, the close is more farcical than deadly. Weighty with period research, but with little narrative payoff. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.