Welcome back to the place that aims to feed the bookish beast in you...Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers.
So, I teased you yesterday with my Taste Testing Tuesdays selection and made you wait today for the creme de la creme....but I promise, it was WELL worth the wait. Then again, I never try to put words in your mouth or settled ideas in your head, so why don't we get right to the heart of it all....the book! It's a step into Historical Fiction, a place I seldom dwell for it can be quite stuffy in there, but brimming with so much life (AND death) that one can't help but take notice. Once I began, I felt I was on one journey, but as it continued to unfold it became SO much more. Allow me to introduce, today's book of choice....
A White Room
About the book...
At the close of the Victorian Era, when women were still expected to behave and just beginning to rebel, Emeline Evans dreamed of becoming a nurse.However when her father dies and leaves the family destitute, Emeline sacrifices her dreams to marry the elusive John Dorr, a man who can provide for her family.
He moves her to the small Missouri town of Labellum and into a bizarre house where remorse and mourning cause Emeline to come unhinged. The furniture twists and turns before her eyes, people stare out at her from empty rooms, and the house itself conspires against her. The doctor and Emeline’s husband say it’s hysteria, but the cure only fuels the house’s authority over her.
Emeline cannot shake her tormentors until she pursues an opportunity to secretly nurse to the poor despite her husband, whose employer actively hunts down and prosecutes unlicensed practitioners. Although women are no longer burned at the stake, at the turn of the century psychological frailty is the new witchcraft, and women who step out of line are severely punished.
This is the story of what happens when life hands you lemons and you make lemonade not by choice but by forced hands. Though the hands may have been guiding and loving, the instructions and outcome meant to spare not spear, it still created the "monster" within that left a lasting impression, influencing everything to come with its ghostly presence. The hardness part about ghosts? Recognizing them for what they are before it's too late.
My statements above are accurate in rereading them, and yet they don't even begin to skim the surface. From the moment we meet the Evans family to the turn of the final pages on the Dorrs, the pages are filled with characters to remember for better AND worse, events that will both inspire and sicken, and a creeping madness that will make you second guess the sanity of many, including your own. It's THAT riveting. It's THAT enthralling. It's THAT well written that you become involved in everyone's life by book's end and you'll never see where everything is creeping to...never. That my friends is DEFINITELY a good thing. Why? Well certainly not because the ending isn't satisfying, because it surely is, but simply because it keeps twisting just out of your grasp but without showing you that the twist is about to happen. It leads you to believe one thing will occur with your full self and then WHOOSH, a believable yet completely unexpected little something shifts and you're bound to the page once again.
I promised myself I wouldn't get as wordy with my reviews (I know, attention spans can be short) but I would be extremely remiss if I didn't at the very least do a role call of sorts for a handful of the persons you meet within. First up....Emeline. She is by far stronger than the whole lot of those present...and she doesn't even know it. Take away her prestige, her fancy things, even her chance to make choices that fit her not the whole and guess what you have? Still Emeline...and that is certainly a wonderful thing to be. Over the course of the pages, it is her mind, her eyes that we travel behind but that doesn't dull the secondary characters who often step to the forefront. We have Lottie, her on again off again on again "servant" who wears the title of friend and confidant before book's end; James, Emeline's brother who despite his limited appearance in the actual events unfolding, has an enduring presence
Recommended read for historical fiction fans and even those in the "non-fan" category. Trust me, whether you seek accuracy in time period, actions and events or not (definitely in the not category), you will find a home with this story and al the twists and turns it has to offer. ARC for review received courtesy of Anita at Smith Publicity, Inc and interview access courtesy of author Stephanie Carroll. (THANKS ladies!) For more information about this title as well as their other promotions, be sure to stop by their official site. To read more about the mind behind this amazing story, seek out the author's page, or follow along on Twitter. This book is available now via Unhinged Books so be on the lookout for it on a bookstore shelf near you. Be sure to check out the other stops on this fabulous tour including yesterday over at Hazel the Witch and Friday's stop at Lost to Books!
Now, it is my extreme pleasure to acquaint you with the author behind the work as she submitted to my quirky questioning ways.... ^_^ ... Ms. Stephanie Carroll!
AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Stephanie Carroll
Hi there! Thank you for joining us today, Ms. Carroll. Any relation to Lewis Carroll by chance? No? Eh, no worries. (Sorry, couldn’t help myself. ^_^) Anywho, let’s dive right in and get to know the real you more fully…
Thank you so much for having me on your awesome blog, and I love the Lewis Carroll reference – he wrote about some crazy Victorians too!
I noticed in your bio that you have degrees in both history and social science; interesting choices. Tell me, do you feel that those educational paths, those shown/known interests, led you in choosing Historical Fiction as your genre or did you just happen upon it?
It’s so funny because I didn’t immediately go for historical fiction. My entire life, I knew I was writer, but I was told from an early age that it wasn’t something anyone could realistically pursue, so I considered it a hobby. I must have compartmentalized my creative side and my pursuit of history because all throughout college, I had a science fiction novel brewing in my head. As soon as I graduated I set out to finally write it. I got six or so chapters in and came up with the idea for A White Room and I just couldn’t let it go.
Tell us about the moment Emeline really came to life in your mind…
Emeline started out as a whiny brat. For some reason I was writing a very unlovable version of Scarlett O'hara. It was a very important part of the novel’s growth when a reader finally told me this. After that I looked into how to make Emeline a likable character, and she really started to take on a life of her own.
The setting of the novel is right at the end of the Victorian era. You gotta love the time period for its gorgeous structures and eloquent attire at the very least. Given the chance, what era in time would you travel back to and why?
I often think that I would enjoy certain aspects of a classic era, especially between 1890-1920 when men and women dressed nice every day, there was etiquette and chivalry, everyone wore hats. Even some of the inequalities seem like they could be enjoyable, like not having to have two incomes, women only having to focus on hobbies and not overstressing themselves. At the same time, I’d go crazy if I couldn’t work or get out of the house. I would probably turn into Emeline – go mad, pursue my dreams anyway – make the most of it.
Your synopsis of the book is to the point but attention getting, the ideal combo if you will. I especially noticed the line about “disobedience is a symptom of psychological defect, and hysterical women must be controlled”. Opinion time! How do YOU feel about the way strong willed women were viewed? If you could go back in time and share a piece of your mind with them, would it be warm apple pie or week old boysenberry cake?
The “Cult of Domesticity” was not something society made up to suppress women and let men rule the world. It wasn’t that they believed women should be submissive, domestic, pious, and virginal. It was believed that they were those things naturally. Any woman who acted outside of this nature through say rebellion or promiscuity wasn’t seen as acting out. She was behaving abnormally, outside of her human nature.
We make these conclusions all the time today. If some guy showed up at the local mall stark naked, you’d probably think he was nuts. Technically, he’s not hurting anyone, but he’s going against what society has determined to be appropriate. Having a woman want to work and remain single at the turn of the century was viewed in a similar light.
My point is, it was just a different time and giving a piece of my mind to anyone would be fruitless and nonsensical to them. I’d probably just be committed.
… Okay, okay, I might say a little something to whoever came up with the idea that a women’s uterus wandered the body aimlessly until it drove women hysterical. Come on! Seriously!
John, Emeline’s husband, seems like a nice enough fellow, but this “employer” he works for walks the line of truth or farce with an iron stance. Tell me, why do you think he is so hard fast to his beliefs? Is it simply common for the age or something more?
John’s employers represent the movement to professionalize medicine and eradicate midwives and abortionists at the turn of the century. The movement was to get rid of con-men and unprofessionals who were hurting people, but the methods were in many ways comparable to the witch trials.
Doctors who treated women who had complications after an abortion could be held accountable, so many women may have died from neglect. Doctors were expected to report, and investigators would question everyone involved and insist upon receiving graphic explanations of what occurred, which in a time when people didn’t even speak directly about pregnancy, was a humiliating process. Investigators would push the woman who had the procedure to talk even if it would be her final words because her testimony could be used in a court of law as live testimony and not hearsay even if she died. This was called “the dying confession.”
John’s employers were passionate about protecting people from untrained and dangerous practitioners, but they were also unsympathetic to the harm they were causing, which isn’t unrealistic because much of the harm came to the lower classes. Their good intentions are undermined by the fact that the reader sees them through Emeline’s eyes, and she has been directly exposed to the harm whereas they have not because they don’t interact with the lower classes the way Emeline does.
Now, I’m not usually a historical fiction reader myself, but I found myself captivated by your work. For those readers that like things short, sweet and neat, DESCRIBE YOUR BOOK IN TEN WORDS…and go!
Victorian heroine marries stranger, goes mad, confronts injustice, finds meaning.
That was an awesome challenge!
Quid pro quo…
…favorite color? Purple
…favorite food? Chocolate cake – the kind my husband makes.
…favorite outdoor activity? Fire spinning – say wha? Yep, I’m a fire spinner and dancer. I spin poi and do fire fan dancing. You can see it for yourself at www.twistedembers.org or on Twisted Embers’ Facebook page. I perform as Ravyn.
…favorite author/book of the moment? Janet Fitch’s White Oleander or Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife. Fitch does things with words, metaphor, and simile that is just beautiful and Niffenegger’s characterization is impeccable. I feel like I know her characters better than I know some real people! I aspire to write like them.
…when not writing, I can be found… Spending time with my husband, reading, researching, dancing, or lighting stuff on fire. =) I also write two blogs The Unhinged Historian and Unhinged & Empowered Navy Wives – wait that’s writing! =)
…if I wasn’t a writer, I would have been… In reality, probably a community college teacher. In fantasy a movie director.
Something I wish I knew then that I surely know now… Bad posture is a writer’s quiet enemy. While writing my novel, I pulled muscles in my back five times in four years. I now have to stand while I type. I have scoliosis, which was a major contributor, but I learned a lot of people pull muscles from sitting at desks for hours on end with bad posture. Writers aren’t athletes, but we can get hurt doing our job. Be kind to your spine. =)
Thank you again for having me. I truly hope your readers enjoyed this interview as much as I did. They can feel free to post some questions of their own in the comments. I’d love to answer them. =)I also hope your readers keep an eye out for my future work. My next novel, The Binding of Saint Barbara, will revolve around the prison warden’s family who lived in Auburn Prison during the controversial first death by electrocution in 1890.
About the author....
As a reporter and community editor, Stephanie Carroll earned first place awards from the National Newspaper Association and from the Nevada Press Association. Stephanie holds degrees in history and social science. She graduated summa cum laude from California State University, Fresno.
Her dark and magical writing is inspired by the classic authors Charlotte Perkins Gilman (The Yellow Wallpaper), Frances Hodgson Burnett (The Secret Garden), and Emily Bronte (Wuthering Heights).
Stephanie blogs and writes fiction in California, where her husband is stationed with the U.S. Navy. Her website is www.stephaniecarroll.net.
A White Room is her debut novel.
Find Stephanie Carroll
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Entries accepted through July 17th, 2013 at midnight CST. US entries only; no P.O. Boxes please.
Entries accepted through July 17th, 2013 at midnight CST. US entries only; no P.O. Boxes please.
Until next time...GOOD LUCK...and happy reading!