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ALICE IN BED: A Novel ~Judith Hooper

Wednesday, April 27th, 2016

Interesting title for this book and it captured my attention and made me want to read it even before I knew much about the story!   When I learned it was about Alice James the sister of psychologist William James and writer Henry James, I did not hesitate to pick the book up and read.

I liked everything about this book – everything.  The writing was just perfect for the 1870s and captured the full image I had of Cambridge, Massachusetts I had tucked in my head.  The family is now living in Cambridge after being “hotel” children all over Europe.  Their Father being a lecturer and an interpreter of the “Divine Philosophy”.  There is little formal education for the children and lots of chaos in the family’s style.   Mary and Henry James are the parents of 5 children.  Bob, Wilki, William, Henry, and Alice.   Aunt Kate also lives with the family and they are surrounded with the elite of society.  Their home is located right across the road from Harvard Square.

Alice may prove over time to be the most intelligent of the family, but she is stuck with being a WOMAN and so no privilege is extended her way.  At about age 13, she begins fainting daily in the late mornings and is taken to numerous doctors about the “falls” and gets a number of bazaar diagnoses.  The medications make it worse; probably the corsets and crinolines and heavy-duty tight, restrictive women’s clothing also contributed to her ailment.   Women with hysteria diagnosis abounded.

Alice adored her brothers especially William who was thought to be a hypochondriac.  William was a talented painter but Father made him go into science and he became highly interested in the mind; studying very intently.  Henry abandoned his Father’s rules and took up writing and spent many years living in Europe.   On a trip to England at age 38, Alice fell and lost the use of her legs. She   was established in an apartment in England in a Spa City and could not travel again.  She began writing a diary which after her death was published and people were amazed how she understood politics and society and was so keenly aware of what was happening all around her and her caustic and keen sense of humor.

I kept wondering if I would describe this story as a biography, historic fiction, or a well-researched expose’.  I think I will use all three.  I enjoyed the detail and the feisty pro-woman stance, and how they fit evenly into the culture and the expectations for the traditional woman of that era.   There were several mentions of Emerson in the story but nothing about Margaret Fuller who would have been a kindred spirit to Alice.

History comes alive and I am very happy that TLC Book Tours sent me an advance PDF file to review this story.  I am sure I will read this book again in the future -Paperback.    I say that because my copy did not translate properly onto my Kindle. The print was so small, I had to keep stretching the page to be able to read it and the page then floated and would not move forward properly to turn the pages.  In the 390 page read I am sure I used up over an hour keeping the page in front of me.  This proved to be disconcerting.  (Hard copy it is 325 pages)

“Alice in Bed is an absorbing, poignant, sometimes hilarious journey through the Gilded Age with one of literature’s most unusual and captivating heroines.”

Judith Hooper writes a fine story and this is her premier novel – a very good work.  I know that many people will love this story and this history lesson.

“Judith Hooper was an editor at Omni magazine and is the author of Of Moths and Men and co-author of The Three-Pound Universe and Would the Buddha Wear a Walkman?: A Catalogue of Revolutionary Tools for Higher Consciousness. She lives in Amherst, Massachusetts.”(TLC page)

Related:
Margaret Fuller
Hannah Coulter
Daughter of Sand and Stone

GONE TO SOLDIERS: A Fiction Novel about WWII ~ Marge Piercy

Monday, April 25th, 2016

I discovered Marge Piercy the writer in the early 1990s.  GONE TO SOLDIERS was published in 1987 and I had already read GOING DOWN FAST, SMALL CHANGES, WOMAN ON THE EDGE OF TIME,  FLY AWAY HOME, and HE, SHE, IT. The women I was in a support group with in New York City were praising Piercy’s work and we were sharing copies.  I enjoy her writing very much and her outlook.

After posting the review for HE, SHE, IT, an email* came in asking me if I would like to read GONE TO SOLDIERS for review.   I said yes I would like to read it, forgetting that I had read it first 30 years ago.  I just was so happy to read more of Piercy’s words.   The Kindle told me that at my reading speed it would take 32 hours and 30 minutes to get to the end.   I dove right into each chapter and hardly came up for air.  I am not incredibly fond of books about war.  This one is quite exceptional.  It took 7 years to write and perfect before it was published and winning so many awards.  I was so happy to read it once again.

The book has an interesting shape as 10 characters and their stories are highlighted throughout the book. Some have 14 chapters to their stories.  We begin before the start of the war in France and before the USA became involved.  WWII is over and recovery is beginning at the end of the story.  The primary theme is about being Jewish and how the Jewish experience of the war overlaps and touches so many lives.  I was amazed at how badly the USA Jews were treated and particularly by the Marine corp.  Some American Generals had no trouble with killing Jews in Europe and participated in the process. Each character was well defined and the connecting characters gave continuity to the story and kept the thread of the themes moving forward.

Extraordinary writing. So revealing about the hate we are seeing displayed even now in the USA, so much fear, and how working from that fear keeps us holding on and not moving forward.

Whenever the control is too great, there are scapegoats and then they are vilified and verbally derogated.  It was important for me to read this novel once again. I feel it with mature eyes.  There is more and more to the story; I become a witness.

I not only humbly give this book top stars and I feel as though it should be required reading in our schools today.   I highly recommend this story.

“Marge Piercy has written 17 novels including The New York Times Bestseller Gone To Soldiers; the National Bestsellers Braided Lives and The Longings of Women, and the classic Woman on the Edge of Time and He, She and It and most recently Sex Wars; ; 19 volumes of poetry including The Hunger Moon: New & Selected Poems 1980-2010, The Crooked Inheritance and in spring 2015, Made in Detroit; and a critically acclaimed memoir Sleeping with Cats. Born in center city Detroit, educated at the University of Michigan and Northwestern, the recipient of four honorary doctorates, she is active in antiwar, feminist and environmental causes.“ (Header at website)

Marge Piercy’s Website and Bio

*Kindle book was sent by Greta Shull, Marketing Coordinator, Open Road Integrated Media, 180 Maiden Lane, suite 8A  New York, NY 10038

Related:
He, She, It
When Women Were Birds
The Sowing

THE RIVALS OF VERSAILLES: A Novel ~Sally Christie

Monday, April 18th, 2016

Once again we are delighted with the historic fiction of Sally Christie in book two of the trilogy about the Versailles Court of France’s Louis XV (1745) Hopefully, the reader was delighted with the SISTERS OF VERSAILLES and all the mistresses of the King – particularly the 5 Nestle sisters of which 4 became his mistress each in turn.

In 1730, Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson, a stunningly beautiful 9 –year- old girl from the middle classes has her fortune told by a gypsy at the local fair.  She is to become the lover of a King and very powerful.  And with some luck and of course planning and maneuvering, she makes her entrance into the Court in 1745 after the death of the Kings favorite mistress.  For 25 years she leads the country and proves the prophecy to be true. She has become Marquise de Pompadour. The Court is against her from the start and she must protect herself from all the rivals to her position all the while the King becomes totally absorbed with luxury and his depravities.  France is now at war and moving closer to the Revolution.

Sally Christie is a marvelous researcher and tells history wrapped in tinseled, modern detail and the reader can feel the swish of the skirts and the flicker of the candle light; falling prey to the necessary manipulations to keep power and the King within the palm of Jeanne’s hand.

“Sally Christie is the author of THE SISTERS OF VERSAILLES and THE RIVALS OF VERSAILLES.  She was born in England and grew up around the world attending eight schools in three different languages.  She spent most of her career working in international development and currently lives in Toronto. Visit www.SallyChristieAuthor.com to find out more about Sally and the Mistresses of Versailles trilogy.” (From book)

I will repeat that I believe this is a wonderful way to learn history and I was quite captivated by the rich details and the twinkle of Christie’s writing which holds the reader through all the story details.  Once again this is a section of history that I really know little about and the story fills me in with one aspect of the crisis, which was brewing and exploding into our history.   I would have loved reading this book from about high school on, although I think some of the sexual material and scheming would certainly put the “Mean Girls” of today to shame.

I so enjoy how Christie includes letters that she uncovered into the story as it makes the history come alive.  There is a third book coming that will include the series – THE ENEMIES OF VERSAILLES.

The uncorrected proof of this book was sent to me by TLC Book Tours and one can go to the link and see what other readers thought about the story.

Related:
The Sisters of Versailles
Mistress of the Court
Whistling Women

THE BOY WHO LOVED RAIN: A NOVEL ~Gerard Kelly

Thursday, April 16th, 2015

“They say that what you don’t know can’t hurt you.  They’re wrong.” (cover)

The Boy Who Loved Rain is a beautiful story about healing a child and the lengths a Mother will go to uncover the truth and free her teenage son from his distress and open the window to a better future for her child.

Fiona is going from crisis to crisis trying to help her son, Colum who as he turns 14 years is becoming anorexic and is loosing the ability to care.  He is attacking other children at school and has been suspended several times.  With the help of her childhood mentor, Miriam, Fiona gathers her son and they head to an isolated retreat on the Atlantic Ocean in France.  Fiona’s brother Mark, a journalist and artist, joins them and begins researching and revealing secrets.  Colum’s father is the charismatic leader of a church centered on a Theology of Positive Parenting in London.  He is no longer close to his son and lets Fiona figure out what to do.

The big discovery is that Colum has signed a letter of intent to commit suicide by the time he is 16 and this is being promoted by an internet site and his only friend succeeds in following through on the site’s recommendations.  The story is serious.

Each chapter begins with a fact or quote about the nature of RAIN. THE BOY WHO LOVED RAIN  contains a tremendous amount of symbolism and a great deal of detail about the nature of the weather and the symbolism of waves and ocean currants.  The story has quite a religious nature and historic connection to Catholic theology and women’s participation in religion within family and community.

Kelly writes with elegance and a poetic grace in THE BOY WHO LOVED RAIN.  I could certainly identify with the struggle of the boy and the stress of the family.  The beautiful writing softened the blow of the hard, hard moments and kept me reading every page.   It was not a fast read, it was a stay with it read; I would have lost so much if I had speed read this story.    Helping a child find the way and heal is always a powerful story; I liked that Colum’s story helped to heal another child also.

There was a great twist in the story, that made me laugh when I did not even anticipate its arrival.   There were descriptions of the wind and the cold, that were so vivid, I had to put on a sweater to continue.

Quite a read for those who like psychology, secrets and stories about healing.

Gerard Kelly’s bio on Amazon

“Gerard Kelly is a writer, speaker and poet and a co-founder, with his wife Chrissie, of The Bless Network. Bless works alongside churches in the UK, France, The Netherlands, Croatia and Spain, empowering young people ‘to encounter the God of mission and find their place in the mission of God’. A member of the ‘Theme Group’ of Spring Harvest, Europe’s largest Christian teaching event and formerly Pastor of Crossroads International Church in Amsterdam, Gerard currently lives in Normandy, France, where he and Chrissie are developing a centre for missional formation.”

Related:
Our Love Could Light the World
In The Garden of Stone
The Clover House
Little Island