Evanston residents Hass Adamji and Mary Daley recently hosted New Jersey-based author Blair MacInnes at their home to preview her new book. About 35 guests gathered for a reading and discussion of “A Collection of Hours,” Ms. MacInnes’ Chicago-based work of historical fiction.
“A Collection of Hours” explores the life of Mary Mitchell Blair, known as Mim, an internationally recognized art collector. Set in the late 19th century, the novel chronicles Mim’s privileged life as well as her obsession to acquire one of the most beautiful and important books in all of Christendom.
“Mim embarks on a search for a 14th-century ‘Book of Hours,’ a devotional book popular in the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Mim is largely representative of her gender and class, but after a near-death experience her perspective changes. Her obsessive quest for a ‘Book of Hours’ brings out surprising facets of her well-bred character,” Ms. MacInnes said.
Ms. MacInnes based the novel on her own great-grandmother, conducting five years of extensive biographical research. “I wanted to give readers not only a vivid impression of Mim, an unconventional woman with a great passion for art, but also an impeccable history of Chicago in the heyday of its growth from swampland to cultural center,” she said.
“A Collection of Hours” is 71-year-old Ms. MacInnes’ first book. “I believe strongly in the power of a ‘good read,’ and I hope that readers are transported as I was by Mim’s story of family conflict, artistic obsession and a great American city,” she said.
Ms. MacInnes’ personal experience lends great resonance to the novel. A political activist who has run for New Jersey State Senate, she drew on her political experience for the novel’s depiction of a heated and dramatic mayoral campaign, striking workers, and influential newspapers. She also employed her master’s degree in theology in her portrayal of Mim’s spiritual development. Mim’s obsessive pursuit of her goals were colored by Ms. MacInnes’ experience as a two-time New York City marathoner, and Mim’s devotion to her family is reflected by Ms. MacInnes’ own close relationship with her own family, which includes nine “delicious” grandchildren.