Thursday, April 21, 2016

Alice in Bed: A Novel by Judith Hooper

(Thank you to the publisher and TLC Book Tours for providing me with a copy of this book!)
about book:

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.

my thoughts:

Historical fiction at its best! Alice is Bed is a fascinating story that sheds light on a woman's descent into invalidism.  The woman being Alice James - sister to renowned psychologist Williams James and famed author Henry James.   Known for her intellect and wit, Alice's social circle consisted of the Boston intellectual elite.  She was rubbing shoulders with the who's who of Boston society when her illness began to overwhelm her.  Tonics were drunk, doctors were seen, and health spas were visited.  Nothing seemed to truly cure Alice.  And then her illness progressed to the point where she no longer had use of her legs and was bound to a chair.  With no idea of what exactly ailed her and no remedy in sight, Alice remained in England unable to travel across the pond to her family in Boston. She found solace in the letters she received from her loved ones and the writings she penned in her diaries.  Armed with her mind, she wrote observations about the reality of her life, the social issues/expectations affecting women, and the pompous academics of the time.  Published posthumously, her diaries received high praise for their insights, wit, and intellect.

In Alice in Bed, Hooper focuses on Alice's life and shares passages from her diaries to highlight the strength and tenacity of Alice's writing and thoughts.  She also includes excerpts from the letters that Alice wrote/received from her brothers, along with the ones in which they wrote to each other.  It all makes for quite an interesting read.  Not only do we learn about their love for Alice, but we also learn about the ways in which her illness affected them as a family.  And we become privy to the fact that her brothers also suffered from depression, perhaps not to the extremes that she did (suicidal and homicidal thoughts abounded).  Hooper's rich descriptions, engaging story lines, and slow-paced narrative make for quite a thoughtful read. I absolutely loved learning about Alice and her family.  I found myself utterly engrossed in Alice in Bed, especially the end of the book - an afterword dedicated to "What was wrong with Alice James?" (the number 1 question running through my head as I read this book) and the bibliography (a new list of books for me to read!).

Alice is Bed is the perfect read for historical fiction buffs, Henry James buffs, and anyone interested in reading about Alice James - you will all love this book so hard!  How could you not? The writing and storytelling are excellent.  It truly is a great read!

Here's the link to the TLC Book Tour schedule for: Alice in Bed
Thank you to the publisher and TLC Book Tours for providing me with a copy of this book!


Lark said...

Not only do I love the Gilded Age, but I am a unashamed fan of Henry James and his novels. Alice in Bed is a book for me!

Oh, and I'm halfway through that Lisa Gardner novel Find her. You reviewed it a couple of months ago and made me want to read it...and I just got my copy from the library. Think I'll be staying up late tonight finishing it. :)

Nadia said...

Lark, then you will love this book! Definitely check it out when you get the chance :) I'm so glad you are enjoying the Gardner book - its riveting! Hope you have a great weekend!!

Heather J @ TLC Book Tours said...

Wow, what a rave review! I'm a huge HistFic fan so this book is going on my list.

Thanks for being a part of the tour!