A richly imagined look at the high price one pre-modern woman pays for her independence.


A young woman fights for her sanity in Victorian England.

When Shumway’s debut historical novel opens in the spring of 1837, little Euphemia “Effie” Marten’s life is idyllic: She’s the daughter of Henry Marten of Marten House, the squire of Chilton Foliat, whose manor house and estate grounds form a beautiful backdrop to games Effie plays with her adored older brother, George. But their happiness shatters seven years later when a drunken George, after three unsuccessful terms at Oxford (and driven to despair by his enormous debts), drowns himself in the River Cherwell. His suicide not only brings pain and grief on his stunned family, but also brings George’s outstanding debts to the Marten estate. When Mr. Marten sells her horse to help pay George’s debts, Effie’s grief leads her to behave oddly. She sneaks out of the house dressed as a boy, is quickly discovered, announces her intention to travel to Oxford alone to pay her respects at her brother’s grave, and, when forbidden to do so by her father, throws things and bites her father’s hand. Her father promptly consigns her to the care of the family doctor and sends her to Warrinder House, a lunatic asylum in Lyme Regis (although she later scoffs at the term: “Asylum?” she says. “Warrinder House was neither more nor less than a gaol for wayward females—a dumping ground”). There, she encounters a somewhat predictable string of brutalities that convinces her to escape with a friend and work to expose the shady practices of Warrinder House. The novel’s period details are refreshingly well-researched (Jane Austen fans will find their beloved Lyme Regis faithfully drawn), and the state of Victorian mental health practices is harrowingly portrayed. Effie’s own shift into bizarre behavior seems a bit arbitrary (it comes as a surprise when we’re flatly told, early on, that she’s “slightly unbalanced”), but readers will end up rooting for her.

A richly imagined look at the high price one pre-modern woman pays for her independence.

Pub Date: May 9, 2013

ISBN: 978-1484933305

Page Count: 272

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Aug. 30, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2013

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While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the...


Hannah’s sequel to Firefly Lane (2008) demonstrates that those who ignore family history are often condemned to repeat it.

When we last left Kate and Tully, the best friends portrayed in Firefly Lane, the friendship was on rocky ground. Now Kate has died of cancer, and Tully, whose once-stellar TV talk show career is in free fall, is wracked with guilt over her failure to be there for Kate until her very last days. Kate’s death has cemented the distrust between her husband, Johnny, and daughter Marah, who expresses her grief by cutting herself and dropping out of college to hang out with goth poet Paxton. Told mostly in flashbacks by Tully, Johnny, Marah and Tully’s long-estranged mother, Dorothy, aka Cloud, the story piles up disasters like the derailment of a high-speed train. Increasingly addicted to prescription sedatives and alcohol, Tully crashes her car and now hovers near death, attended by Kate’s spirit, as the other characters gather to see what their shortsightedness has wrought. We learn that Tully had tried to parent Marah after her father no longer could. Her hard-drinking decline was triggered by Johnny’s anger at her for keeping Marah and Paxton’s liaison secret. Johnny realizes that he only exacerbated Marah’s depression by uprooting the family from their Seattle home. Unexpectedly, Cloud, who rebuffed Tully’s every attempt to reconcile, also appears at her daughter’s bedside. Sixty-nine years old and finally sober, Cloud details for the first time the abusive childhood, complete with commitments to mental hospitals and electroshock treatments, that led to her life as a junkie lowlife and punching bag for trailer-trash men. Although powerful, Cloud’s largely peripheral story deflects focus away from the main conflict, as if Hannah was loath to tackle the intractable thicket in which she mired her main characters.

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the pages turning even as readers begin to resent being drawn into this masochistic morass.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-57721-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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