Sex Wars

Marge Piercy, Author . Morrow $24.95 (411p) ISBN 978-0-06-078983-1

This rich novel set in post–Civil War New York stars a true-life cast of characters that includes Victoria Woodhull, the spiritualist turned first woman to run for the U.S. presidency; passionate suffragette Elizabeth Cady Stanton; the aged Cornelius Vanderbilt, who sits atop a $100-million fortune as he tries to make contact with his dead son; and Anthony Comstock, a crusading moralist who dedicates his life to outlawing pornography and "obscene objects made of rubber." As they each vie for different kinds of sex-based power, the consequences of their actions echo from the halls of Congress to Manhattan's back alleys. Piercy (Gone to Soldiers ) powerfully dramatizes the early feminists' zeal and the high stakes of the gender wars it set in motion, and offers a wealth of period detail, including tips on using an outdoor latrine when living in a fifth-floor walk-up and the cost to bathe (fully dressed, no soap) in the East River. Most poignant among the invented characters is Freydeh Leibowitz, a young Russian-Jewish widow, who, far from the scandalous headlines and saloon gossip of the times, makes a living for herself and her adopted children, penny by penny, as a manufacturer of reliable condoms. Stylistically, the narration and dialogue don't wow, but the people, their ways of living and the ways they are marked by sex certainly do. (On sale Nov. 22)

Reviewed on: 09/05/2005
Release date: 12/01/2005
Genre: Fiction
Ebook - 432 pages - 978-0-06-201439-9
Hardcover - 320 pages - 978-0-7499-0751-8
Paperback - 411 pages - 978-0-7499-3633-4
Paperback - 411 pages - 978-0-06-078987-9
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