One of her brothers is the greatest English novelist of his time;
another is inventing American psychology. The James family is famous in
Boston and New York for its brilliance, eccentricity, and mesmerizing
conversation. Alice James is no less remarkable than her brothers (Henry
and William), but there is a problem: she is a girl. Her education has
been haphazard, there are no colleges for women, and young ladies are
expected to be Angels in the House. No one could be less suited to
angelic domesticity than the tart-tongued, defiantly original Alice. She
must chart her own course, but how?
Falling mysteriously ill while crossing the Atlantic at age 38, she
becomes confined to her bed in a lodging house in provincial England.
Thus begins her second life, when she recalls or redreams her life and
struggles to make sense of it. How did her collapse begin? Was it
“Father’s Ideas”? The night she drank absinthe and fell in love with a
girl? The time William went to the asylum? The childhood years in Paris,
when Father fired each of her governesses in turn? Was it the horrors
of the Civil War, the erotic relations with the Temple cousins, the day
Henry deserted her and sailed to Europe? Was it simply the oddness of
“growing up James”?
Alice in Bed is an absorbing, poignant, sometimes hilarious
journey through the Gilded Age with one of literature’s most unusual and