Captive of the Labyrinth: Sarah L. Winchester, Heiress to the Rifle Fortune

Mary Jo Ignoffo, Univ. of Missouri, $29.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-8262-1905-3
In this scattered but well-meaning biography of the heiress to the massive Winchester arms fortune, Ignoffo's attempts to undercut rumors of eccentric behavior become bogged down in historical minutiae. Born in 1839 in New Haven, Conn., Sarah Lockwood Pardee entered the Winchester dynasty in 1862 when she wed William Wirt Winchester, the son of the founder of the legendary Winchester Repeating Arms Company. The Winchester rifle became the preferred gun of the expanding American frontier, and Sarah moved westward herself four years after William's death in 1881, using her substantial wealth to settle in a then undeveloped California. Rumors of her spiritualist leanings and reclusive tendencies began after Sarah purchased a large ranch in the Santa Clara Valley, christening it Llanada Villa, which became the titular labyrinth. When completed, it was over three stories high, with rooms and hallways tacked on at random. Sarah purchased several more properties surrounding Llanada and near San Francisco, all while remaining aloof from neighbors, primarily due to debilitating rheumatoid arthritis. While Sarah Winchester's intriguing life has been largely overlooked by historians, Ignoffo does her subject few favors with a lack of organization and frequent tangents. (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 11/08/2010
Release date: 12/01/2010
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 282 pages - 978-0-8262-7231-7
Paperback - 280 pages - 978-0-8262-1983-1
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