In addition to the literary feast of recreated letters between Alice James and her famous brothers William and Henry, journalist Hooper’s (Pieces of a Life) first novel portrays the exciting, frustrating, and perplexing private life of bed-ridden Alice. In Leamington, England, Alice’s illnesses develop alongside her longing for the entertaining, ambitious lives led by her two brothers. Her sardonic wit repels suitors, and her clear uninterest in marital servitude confuses her peers and parents, but she identifies with her older, academically gifted brothers, who adore her. As Alice languishes in domestic invisibility, Henry moves to Paris and makes fast friends with Ivan Turgenev, Gustave Flaubert, and Alice’s idol George Sand. A provocative James-family saga unfolds, as science and medicine teeter between mesmerism and rest cures in an England that predates modern medicine. Though Alice’s journal is kept a secret, she forewarns William of her rise to prominence, even as she is dying: “Arm yourself against my dawn, which may at any moment cast you and Harry into obscurity.” Although much of the dialogue falls flat, the true power of this novel is the exquisite language—both in the James’ reproduced letters, and in Hooper’s own impressive, shadow-quill renderings. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 09/21/2015 Release date: 10/01/2015 Genre: Fiction
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