Pub. Date: October 13th, 2015
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.
What Did I Think About the Story?
I think just about every reader in America at least knows who Henry James is, but how many have heard of his sister, Alice? I, for one, hadn't, which is exactly why I decided to pick up Alice in Bed and hopefully learn more about someone on the periphery of someone so famous. However, what I learned very quickly about Alice is that she refused to be on the periphery of anyone, and this spunky brilliance is something I loved most about her character.
The story is told is a very interesting way, through remembrances from Alice as she lies, unable to walk or do much of anything, in England and through snippets of letters between Alice and her brothers Henry and William. It was quite an unusual experience being inside Alice's head as she is an incredibly observant, intelligent, introspective, and combative character and was easily a match for any of her brilliant family members. She's well able to present her life and experiences in an articulate, scholarly way, but, for me, her way with words did become somewhat cumbersome at times. I began to feel like I would have been eaten alive at the James's dinner table!
As I'm writing this I can't help but keep coming back to the fact that, in my opinion, much of the stress and nerves that afflicted Alice throughout her life came from her being born at the wrong time and place. Her attraction to women, need for freedom and expression, and her want to continually expand her learning would seem perfectly normal now while in her time those traits were considered a degeneration and even sickness. She was so stifled by the restraints of her time that she was a kind of prisoner long before her body ever broke down and made her more of a literal one.
Along with Alice many of Alice's family members suffered from various panic disorders and other mental issues and seeing these play out from Alice's perspective and trying to decipher what was really happening behind all the florid language the James's said to and about each other added a little touch of mystery to the story, at least for me. The author also includes an afterword - What was wrong with Alice? - that discusses the various things that might have been happening from our more modern perspective and this went someway to helping me figure out these characters. This family definitely road that thin line between genius and madness and I'm in awe of their intelligence and contributions to American history even while being fascinated by their sometimes bizarre behaviors.
Alice in Bed is a study of a brilliant woman in her own right as well as her dynamic family in general. Anyone already familiar with the family or who wants to know more will find much to ponder in this unique and clearly well researched view into such an intriguing group of people.
What Did I Think About the Cover?
It's okay. It's not really the kind of cover that would make me instantly pick it up and read what was inside, but it does represent the story well with the bed and the letter that represents the volumes of correspondence between the various James's.
Thank you to TLC Book Tours for providing me with a free copy of Alice in Bed in exchange for an honest review! Be sure to continue below for information on the author, the book, the blog tour, and how you can enter to win a digital copy of the book!
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About the Author
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.
Thank you to TLC Book Tours for allowing me to offer up one digital copy of Alice in Bed for giveaway! All you have to do is enter your name and email address on the giveaway form HERE. Please be sure to leave both your name and your email on the form so I can contact you if you are my winner (no email address, no entry!). For extra entries you can follow the blog in various ways (all links are on the right hand sidebar) and leave the name/email you follow with on the form. That's it!
I'll use a random number generator to pick a winner on May 20th, 2016 and will announce the winner here as well as email the winner. I'll then send the winner's name and email address to the tour organizer so they can get the digital copy sent out. If you have already won this giveaway on another site please let me know so I can pick a new winner and give someone else a chance to win a copy of this great book.
Alice in Bed Tour Schedule
Tuesday, April 19th: Dwell in Possibility
Wednesday, April 20th: Puddletown Reviews
Thursday, April 21st: A Bookish Way of Life
Tuesday, April 26th: A Book A Week
Thursday, April 28th: Building Bookshelves
Friday, April 29th: Julz Reads
Monday, May 2nd: Thoughts on This ‘n That
Wednesday, May 4th: 5 Minutes for Books
Friday, May 6th: SJ2B House of Books
Monday, May 9th: A Bookish Affair
Wednesday, May 11th: Time 2 Read
Friday, May 13th: A Literary Vacation
Friday, May 13th: Worth Getting in Bed For
Monday, May 16th: Kahakai Kitchen
Wednesday, May 18th: Books on the Table
Thursday, May 19th: View from the Birdhouse
Friday, May 20th: Just One More Chapter
TBD: History from a Woman’s Perspective
TBD: Patricia’s Wisdom