Shades of Fortune

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Mireille “Mimi” Myerson is the president of a giant corporation producing a line of cosmetics pioneered by her seemingly tyrannical and arbitrary grandfather. Yet all is not as it seems in this newest work from the prolific novelist and social historian Stephen Birmingham. Certainly, all is not well with Mimi, her marriage, her family, or the corporation she heads.

On the one hand, the Miray Corporation is on the verge of launching a controversial advertising campaign in support of a multi-million dollar gamble on a new perfume as it faces the threat of a hostile takeover by an aggressive corporate raider, Michael Horowitz. This threat is particularly dangerous in that Horowitz is a former lover of Mimi’s who proposes to possess both Mimi and her company. This attack, coming at a time when Mimi’s marriage is threatened by an affair on the part of her husband, bids fair to destroy both Miray’s independence and what has been, up to now, a happy union.

Meanwhile, trouble is on the horizon at several points within the Myerson family. Fleurette Guggenheim Myerson, the family matriarch, is apparently lapsing into senility--a circumstance which leads her son Edwin to elaborate a scheme to “liberate” several works of art from his mother’s prized collection. Mimi’s own mother has only recently recovered from a lifetime addiction to alcohol, while her Aunt Naomi is playing a dangerous game in pursuit of backing for yet another attempt at financial independence. Finally, a series of diaries belonging to Mimi’s grandfather surfaces, revealing a scandal which might easily devastate the entire family and bring ruin to the corporation.

Stephen Birmingham is an able chronicler of the life and times of the New York aristocracy, in part because he is personally acquainted with the real-life models of his fictional creations. In consequence, his work presents an appearance of verisimilitude which is all too often lacking in novels of this genre. SHADES OF FORTUNE is full of intimate details of the cosmetics industry, its history, and the individuals who transformed it into a multi-billion dollar endeavor. Moreover, the author s created a family of such memorable characters that the reader is propelled from page to page in order to determine their fate.