The novel opens in England in 1915, at the deathbed of Dorothy Townsend, a suffragist and one of the first women to integrate Cambridge University. Her decision to starve herself for the cause informs and echoes in the later, overlapping narratives of her descendants. Among them are her daughter Evie, who becomes a professor of chemistry at Barnard College in the middle of the century and never marries, and her granddaughter Dorothy Townsend Barrett, who focuses her grief over the loss of her son by repeatedly defying the ban on photographing the bodies of dead soldiers returned to Dover Air Force base from Iraq. The contemporary chapters chronicle Dorothy Barrett's girls, both young professionals embarrassed by their mother's activism and baffled when she leaves their father after 50 years of marriage.
Walbert deftly explores the ways in which successive generations of women have attempted to articulate what the 19th century called "the woman question". Her novel is a moving reflection on the tides of history, and how the lives of our great-grandmothers resonate in our own.
©2009 Kate Walbert (P)2010 HighBridge Company
"Wickedly smart....Wears both its intelligence and its ideology lightly....A gorgeously wrought and ultimately wrenching work of art." (The New York Times Book Review)
"Perfectly calibrated, intricately structured, and gripping from page one." (Publisher's Weekly)
"Reminiscent of a host of innovative writers from Virginia Woolf to Muriel Spark to Pat Barker….A witty and assured testament to the women’s movement and women writers, obscure and renowned." (The Washington Post)
The book would not end soon enough. I am a huge fan of strong female characters, of which, this book had none even though it was based around a prominent woman suffragette. Even though the different characters are represented my different narrators, I still had a difficult time figuring out who was talking and when. I wish I has read the book instead so I could have flipped back to figure out what was going on. What was going on? The book progressed slowly, if it has an underlying message I think it would be: poor character is a genetic trait. I would not recommend this book to anyone. The only reason I finished it was so I could discuss it at my monthly book club.
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