From the time she was a little girl creating short stories on her parents’ typewriter, Villanova native and Friends’ Central School alum Amy Meyerson knew she wanted to be a novelist.
That dream was realized two years ago with her debut novel, The Bookshop of Yesterdays. On the heels of its international success, Meyerson is releasing her latest book, The Imperfects (Park Row, 384 pages), this May. We caught up with the author in Los Angeles, where she’s a professor at the University of Southern California.
MLT: Tell us what The Imperfects is about.
AM: The book is centered on the real-life Florentine Diamond, which disappeared in 1919. It was part of the Austrian crown jewels, and it’s never been seen again. The story starts in Bala Cynwyd, where the family’s grandmother, Helen, passes away. Upon going to her house, one of the siblings finds this brooch and quickly discovers it holds the Florentine Diamond. The family has to figure out how their grandmother, who was a seamstress, ended up with this prize crown jewel from Austria. As they uncover the true story of the diamond, they’re ultimately uncovering the story of their family.
MLT: Why did you choose the Florentine Diamond?
AM: As a hobby for years, I’ve done jewelry making. I haven’t worked with diamonds—I mostly work in silver. I learned a lot about gemstones and metals through doing hands-on work, and I’ve always been really interested in stones. They’re this combination of natural history and personal history in terms of how they often get passed down through a family. The Florentine Diamond belonged to Marie Antoinette and Napoleon’s second wife. It has this really wonderful aura to it.
MLT: Where does your interest in family history come from?
AM: I’m really interested in what we can know about the past based on what’s left behind. My books are not autobiographical, but I did realize how little I know about the older generations of my family. What can we learn retrospectively when the people who experience these family narratives aren’t around anymore? I started exploring that in my first book, and I really committed to it in the second book.
MLT: Why set The Imperfects in Bala Cynwyd?
AM: I knew I wanted it to be somewhere on the Main Line, and I wanted it to be in a rowhouse. After talking to people who’ve spent their whole lives in the area, Bala Cynwyd seemed to have the kind of house I was looking for. I was also very excited to include Hymie’s Deli in my book. Every time I come home, we make a trip.
MLT: What’s next?
AM: I’m thinking of writing about a vineyard in Santa Ynez [Calif.], which is part of Santa Barbara wine country.