The Velvet Prison by Sheldon Friedman
Against the pulsating back drop of a New York City in social and economic change, young Travis Kane struggles with his passion to be an artist painter, and the conservative demands of his strict grandfather, Barclay Kane.
His mother, unable to come to terms with tragedy, has taken Travis’s infant sister and abandons him, leaving their house in Gramercy Park, and Travis to be raised by the grandfather he adores.
Travis enters a New York speakeasy, with a unique idea, that will change his life, leading him on an exciting journey, meeting Manhattan’s privileged, studying in art in Paris and, finding his way to Broadway.
Meanwhile, Lindsay Wayne’s mother, seamstress, has a secret, and a passion. Her daughter will become a famous stage actress, and this is her focus.
Lindsay and Travis’s worlds collide.
Their lives will never be the same again.
The Velvet Prison truly consists in the atmosphere, sights and sounds of 1930s New York, and Paris and London (European stomping grounds for Travis); the feel and look of everything from a New York mansion, to a seedy artist’s studio, a New York casino, The 1939 New York World’s Fair, the Broadway stage, and labor union protests. But above all, there is the incredibly vivid and tactile description of Travis’ tools of the trade, his labors at the canvas, and the resulting paintings.
The Velvet Prison refers to a nightclub, but the title also refers to the predicament of Travis Kane. His young life of privilege is actually an albatross that keeps him in a prison and frustrates him. The novel does not make light of his conflict, but most readers will be able to predict the outcome. The outcome, but not the ending, is both tragic and “happy.”