Monday

book circle: may

I decided to add to add a little more substance to my review...

Well, they can't all be awesome. Last month's book circle choice was The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff. It was okay. It wasn't bad or anything, but it just didn't hold my interest.

The novel weaves together two stories. The first deals with the murder of a leader in a modern day polygamous cult. His 19th wife is imprisoned for the murder, and her estranged son begins to unravel the mystery surrounding his death. The second story is a fictional autobiography of Ann Eliza Young, one of Mormon pioneer Brigham Young's actual plural wives, who left the church to become an anti-polygamy crusader. Interspersed throughout the two stories are other fictional autobiographies, letters, and documents rounding out the tale of polygamy throughout American history.

The murder mystery wasn't especially complicated or engaging, and Ann Eliza wasn't a particularly likable narrator. I found myself reading quickly not out of interest but from a desire to get through it. Having studied history (and religion) in college, I think the faked historical stuff troubled me in some strangely purist, academic way.

It was interesting to take an in-depth look at the domestic and spiritual fallout of polygamy. It was especially unsettling how the male characters cloaked their lust (and sometimes violence) in pious spirituality, taking on more and younger wives than they could support just to add variety to the bedroom. The novel made me wonder if the modern day Mormon church is still visited by ghosts of its polygamist past: what if any impact does it have on gender roles or sexual attitudes in their church today?

Penny over Walking Upside Down is our book group's gracious hostess.

5 comments:

Penny said...

I'm still waiting for the book - I'm 46 on the list at the library! I guess I'll get to read it sometime ;) Just a leetle nervous about this one...

Mel said...

I think I liked it more than you did but it took me absolutely ages to read. I liked the history lesson in it but it wasn't gripping. The whole polygamy thing was fascinating - don't know how those women stood for it (no choice for most of them, I know). I've just finished with the June book but hesitating before writing a review.

Beth said...

i think the topic sounds fascinating... was it poorly written or just not what you were expecting?

Beth said...

i read the first pick, the Pie Society, and liked it. that's why i'm always interested in hearing what your group reads next. if you have a chance to read the blue bottle club, i thought that one was really good. and if you're interested in a page turned, one of my favs of all time is called the virgin blue. by tracy chevalier. fantastic read!

scrapgeek said...

I found Ann Eliza quite an interesting character (although not always likeable). Not knowing much about the history, I found that part interesting (although always being aware that it was a story rather than non-fiction). I just found it a huge relief to read after the struggle that was the Zookeeper's Wife :)

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