Thursday, May 19, 2016

Book Review and Giveaway - Alice in Bed by Judith Hooper

Book Synopsis
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 captivating heroines.
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Purchase Links

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My Review 

Alice in Bed is one of the most unusual - and fascinating - books I have read in a long time.  I read several Henry James novels in college, and knew a little bit about William James, but was not familiar with Alice James at all before this read.  Now I am very curious about her life, and would like to read her diary.


Although Alice James lived as an invalid, she had a remarkable inner life, and showed great creativity and humor.   Readers will empathize with her frustrations as she wants to be free, not just from her mysterious illness, but also from the constraints she feels as a woman during the Gilded Age.


Judith Hooper's writing is beautiful, with brilliant descriptions and well developed characterizations.  For example:


"I can slow it down and make out individual blades of grass, a chink in a stone wall, a  button missing from the dress of an elderly lady on a park bench, the flies settling on the face of the horse pulling the milkman's wagon.  Perhaps in the absence of an outer life, the inner life shines brighter.  My brother William ought to study this in his psychology" (p. 2).


The treatment of mental illness and the status of women in society of this time are key to this book.  After a powerful and moving conclusion, the author includes an Afterward:  "What was wrong with Alice James?"  It offers some fascinating insights to Alice James's life.


Readers who have a strong interest in history, especially literary history and women's history, will find this book compelling.   

Author Bio

Judith Hooper was an editor at Omni magazine and is the author of Of Moths and Men and co-author of The Three-Pound Universe and Would the Buddha Wear a Walkman?: A Catalogue of Revolutionary Tools for Higher Consciousness. She lives in Amherst, Massachusetts. 



One lucky reader will win a digital copy of this book.  Giveaway ends 5/26.  Winner will be notified by email, and will need to respond within 48 hours.   The author or her publicist will send the eBook to the winner.

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I received a copy of this book from TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.  


Laura said...

This looks like a book that I would enjoy. Thank you for sharing!

joenkristy5 said...

Sounds interesting, Thank you

Katherine Riley said...

Knowing people who suffer from a mental illness, this book sounds absolutely fascinating.

Anonymous said...

This looks like a book that I would enjoy.

Heather J @ TLC Book Tours said...

I've read some of Henry's books but was not familiar with William or Alice prior to this book. Alice's life sounds fascinating and very frustrating as well.

Thanks for being a part of the tour!

Angela Tarrant said...

Ooh I love historical books with a bit of psychology mixed in. I'd like to learn more about Alice James

Bonnie Franks said...

This sounds really good and of course, women's issues!