Category Archives: The Curiosities

Review: The Curiosities by Susan Gloss

Title: The Curiosities by Susan Gloss
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction
Length: 368 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss


The follow-up to Susan Gloss’s successful debut, Vintage,is a charming mid-western story of artists, inspiration, and how to reinvent your life with purpose and flair.

Nell Parker has a PhD in Art History, a loving husband named Josh, and a Craftsman bungalow in the charming university town of Madison, Wisconsin. But in secret, Nell’s heart is still reeling from the tragic way in which they lost the one baby they managed to conceive. Rather than pausing to grieve, she pushes harder for testing and fertility treatments, hiding the high cost from her husband. Although he’s in the dark about their mounting debt, Josh urges Nell to apply for jobs, believing his wife needs something else to focus on other than a baby that may never be.

Finding a job turns out to be difficult for an art historian. . . until Nell sees the ad seeking a director for a new nonprofit called the Mansion Hill Artists’ Colony. The colony is the brainchild of the late, unconventional society dame Betsy Barrett, who left behind her vast fortune and a killer collection of modern art to establish an artist-in-residency program to be run out of her lakeside mansion. The executor of Betsy’s estate simply hands Nell a set of house keys and wishes her luck, leaving her to manage the mansion and the eccentric personalities of the artists who live there on her own.

Soon one of the artists, a young metal sculptor named Odin, is keeping the other residents awake with his late-night welding projects. Nell is pretty sure that Annie, a dreadlocked granny known for her avant garde performance pieces, is dealing drugs out of the basement “studio.” Meanwhile Paige, an art student from the university, takes up residence in the third-floor turret, experimenting with new printing and design techniques, as well as leading a string of bad boyfriends upstairs when she stumbles home late at night.

Despite all the drama, Nell finds something akin to a family among the members of the creative community that she’s brought together. And when her attraction to Odin begins to heat up, Nell is forced to decide what will bring her greater joy–the creative, inspired world she’s created, or the familiar but increasingly fragile one of her marriage.


The Curiosities by Susan Gloss is an engrossing, character driven novel.

Nell Parker and her husband, Josh, have been struggling with infertility since the loss of their baby. Following another failed IVF, Nell accepts a position as the director of a newly formed artist colony. Art collector Betsy Barrett created an artist in residence program shortly before passing away and then donated her estate to house the artists and provided the money to finance the program. She selected the inaugural artists whom Nell is in now in charge of helping encourage and nurture. A bit out of her depth, Nell nonetheless enthusiastically undertakes the challenge while hoping to keep Josh from uncovering the truth about their finances.

When Nell and Josh first moved to Madison for his job, she was pregnant so she put off finding a job.  Following their heartrending loss, a career is out of the question during the rounds of IVF she is undergoing.  After their last attempt fails, Josh refuses to agree to continuing treatment.  Nell has kept vital information about how she has been paying for the expensive treatment, so she hopes to pay down the debt before he discovers her deception. Jobs are scarce so she eagerly but nervously accepts the position at the artist colony.

Before long, the program’s artists arrive and begin work. Paige Jewell is the youngest member of the program and although enormously talented, she lacks focus as she flits from one medium to another. Photographer Annie Beck is the oldest member of the group and she is hoping to jumpstart her once lucrative career with her latest ambitious project. Metal  Sculptor Odin Sorensen is hoping to expand his career as he shifts from creating small, top pieces to much larger works of art.

Interspersed with Nell and the artists’ stories in the present,  Betsy’s life is revealed through a series of flashbacks. Married to a much older man who encouraged her love of art, Betsy carefully curated an enviable collection through the years.  Two of the artists in the program have unexpected ties to their generous benefactress although how their lives intersect is not made clear until close to the novel’s end.

The Curiosities is an engaging novel with underlying themes of grief and moving forward after tragedy. The characters are well-developed and multi-dimensional with interesting backstories and artistic talents.  Although a bit slow-moving initially, the story gradually picks up steam and Susan Gloss brings this creative novel to a satisfying conclusion.

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Filed under Contemporary, Rated B, Review, Susan Gloss, The Curiosities, William Morrow Paperbacks, Women's Fiction