The Gilded Edge: Two Audacious Women and the Cyanide Love Triangle That Shook America

Catherine Prendergast. Dutton, $28 (352p) ISBN 978-0-59-318292-5
Prendergast (Buying into English), an English professor at the University of Illinois, disentangles the mysterious lives of 1900s “New Women” Nora May French and Caroline “Carrie” Sterling in this high-stakes if uneven account of the Carmel literary colony. Founded in the early 20th century Carmel-by-the-Sea, Calif., the colony hosted such writers as Jack London and Upton Sinclair. At its height in 1907, French, who made up a love triangle with Carrie Sterling and her husband George, died by cyanide poisoning—the Sterlings each died by the same means years later. Prendergast sympathetically depicts French, an acclaimed poet of her time, as a woman whose life had been “cursed by the actions of neglectful and malignant men” but maintained her confidence while her male peers offered “scathing and patently misogynistic” responses to her work. Similarly, Sterling, an artist and the hostess of the Carmel writing colony, was branded by the press as the “know-nothing” wife of Bohemian poet George Sterling who tolerated his many indiscretions. While Prendergast’s commentary is sharp, she fails to fill in the gaps of French’s life between her arrival at Carmel and her death, making things feel incomplete. Still, this punchy feminist tribute offers a fascinating look at two forgotten women of the Gilded Age. Agent: Anna Sproul-Latimer, Neon Literary. (Oct.)
Reviewed on : 07/23/2021
Release date: 10/05/2021
Genre: Nonfiction
Book - 1 pages - 978-0-593-18294-9
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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