Books by Robert J. Begiebing

Released: Sept. 30, 2003

"Begiebing's narrative tends to get bogged down in historical detail, but it's arresting enough to carry you through to the end. A truly creepy tale. "
In this latest American Gothic from Begiebing (The Adventures of Allegra Fullerton, 1999, etc.), a mysterious girl runs afoul of her relatives and becomes the obsession of a young artist in 18th-century New England. Read full book review >
Released: Nov. 3, 1999

An American woman's awakening to her vocation as artist and freed spirit is the subject of this impressively researched and detailed, if undramatic, historical by the author of The Strange Death of Mistress Coffin (1991), etc. Begiebing's eponymous heroine and narrator begins her story "in captivity," in 1839, after she's been abducted by Joseph Dudley, the scapegrace son of a wealthy Massachusetts mill-owner who's commissioned the young widow, a gifted "traveling painter," to execute portraits of his family. Allegra resists young Dudley's schemes to coarsen her sensibilities and have his way with her (in scenes clearly inspired by Samuel Richardson's Clarissa), and—aided by a sympathetic stranger who turns out to be mariner and author Richard Henry Dana—escapes Dudley's clutches and is reunited with her manly brother Tom, Allegra's traveling companion and "protector." The story sputters early on, as transitions between Allegra's (rather fragmentary) memories of her early years and (sadly brief) marriage are awkwardly made. But Begiebing hits his stride as the increasingly confident Allegra makes her way among New England's intellectual elite, meeting suffragettes, abolitionists, and other reformers (including feminist firebrand Margaret Fuller) at a Brook Farm—like utopian commune ("Newspirit") and among the Boston Female Moral Reform Society, finding artistic and romantic fulfillment with male artists who accept her as one of them, and journeying to Italy, where she forms a curious friendship with "an abrasive young man" in the process of becoming the art critic and essayist John Ruskin. A subplot involving the impetuous Tom is merely distracting, and the novel hasn't much narrative tension overall. But its episodic structure eventually works: a fascinating world is created with real conviction. Begiebing undoubtedly tried to do too much here, but readers who accept his story's eccentric pacing and unusual texture will be grateful for his efforts. Read full book review >
Released: April 1, 1991

Murder and assorted depravity in 17th-century New England: aspiring young lumber-trader Richard Browne is asked to look into the mysterious assault and murder (based on an actual unsolved mystery in colonial New Hampshire) of Kathrin Coffin. At first his suspicion falls on Jared Higgins, hired by misanthropic Balthazar Coffin to ferry his wife to a nearby seacoast market; but then Coffin drops his own legal action against Higgins, who disappears into the wilderness. Browne's desultory yet haunted years-long search for the truth will lead him to an Indian settlement to meet White Robin-the missing Higgins-to an unlikely alliance with an invaluable witch, to a wintry romance with Higgins's forlorn wife Elizabeth, and-through a revelatory journal-to an unsparing close-up of Mistress Coffin herself before the secret of her death is finally revealed 35 years later. Not for everyone, but if the colonial trappings don't put you off, this story-by turns graceful, bleak, and tender, but never merely quaint-could be a find. Read full book review >