When Elizabeth Gaffney’s debut novel, "Metropolis," was first published in 2005, Vanity Fair praised it as a “literary page-turner” while the New York Times referred to Gaffney as “a debut novelist of unusual distinction.” Now, Gaffney offers the follow-up to her critically acclaimed novel with "When the World Was Young."
Spunky, smart, and full of life, Wally Baker is no ordinary girl. She doesn’t like dresses, needlepoint, or manners. Growing up in her grandparents’ Brooklyn Heights brownstone in the days of food rations, blackouts, and absent fathers, Wally’s love of Wonder Woman comics and digging up ants makes her feel like a misfit, especially in the shadow of her dazzling but unstable mother, Stella. Then, a sudden tragedy on V-J Day alters the course of Wally's life forever, raising questions about her mother's past and family secrets.
"When the World Was Young" is full of great period detail and authenticity. Drawing from her experiences as a lifelong Brooklynite - Gaffney and her family have owned and lived in the same Brooklyn Heights brownstone since she was born - Gaffney used this setting as the inspiration for her protagonist’s home.
To evoke the period of her native Brooklyn Heights, Gaffney researched photographs of Brooklyn and Brooklynites from the 1940s, consulted subway and street maps, and read correspondence between Lucy, a young mother who worked at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and her husband, who worked at a shipyard in California. For details in the lives of several of the characters, Gaffney drew from contemporary scrapbooks she found in the archives of the Brooklyn Historical Society, and conducted interviews with people who grew up in Brooklyn at the time of the story for details on everyday life.
Spanning from post-World War II Brooklyn to the Greenwich Village folk scene of the late '50s, "When the World Was Young" is an immersive, beautiful, coming-of-age novel about mothers and daughters, the secrets that divide and the love that keeps families together.
Gaffney will be appearing at Browseabout Books, 133 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, at 5 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 16. She will be reading an excerpt from her book and answering questions from the audience. This event is free and open to the public; no registration is required. Light refreshments will be served. For more information, go to browseaboutbooks.com or call 302-226-2665.