Tag Archives: women’s rights

Book Blast: Lilli de Jong by Janet Benton

I offered to post information today about a book that’s releasing soon and already has very high praise. Read on to see. I’ll be reviewing this book and have the author on for an interivew in July! I look forward to reading it.

02_Lilli de Jong

Lilli de Jong by Janet Benton

Publication Date: May 16, 2017
Nan A. Talese
Hardcover & eBook; 352 Pages
Genre: Fiction/Historical/Literary

A young woman finds the most powerful love of her life when she gives birth at an institution for unwed mothers in 1883 Philadelphia. She is told she must give up her daughter to avoid lifelong poverty and shame. But she chooses to keep her. Pregnant, left behind by her lover, and banished from her Quaker home and teaching position, Lilli de Jong enters a home for wronged women to deliver her child. She is stunned at how much her infant needs her and at how quickly their bond overtakes her heart. Mothers in her position face disabling prejudice, which is why most give up their newborns.

But Lilli can’t accept such an outcome. Instead, she braves moral condemnation and financial ruin in a quest to keep herself and her baby alive. Confiding their story to her diary as it unfolds, Lilli takes readers from an impoverished charity to a wealthy family’s home to the streets of a burgeoning American city. Drawing on rich history, Lilli de Jong is both an intimate portrait of loves lost and found and a testament to the work of mothers.

“So little is permissible for a woman,” writes Lilli, “yet on her back every human climbs to adulthood.”

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Praise for Lilli de Jong –

“Lilli de Jong, discharged from her teaching job and banished from Quaker meetings because of her father’s selfish choice, finds comfort in the affections of her father’s apprentice, Johan. The night before he leaves to embark on a new life, she succumbs to his embrace with his promise that he will send for her. Soon thereafter, a pregnant Lilli finds herself shunned and alone, her only option a Philadelphia charity for wronged women. Knowing that she must relinquish her newborn, she is unprepared for the love that she feels for her daughter. Lilli quickly decides to fight to keep her, but in 1883 that means a life of hardship and deprivation. Telling Lilli’s story in diary form, debut author Benton has written a captivating, page-turning, and well-researched novel about the power of a mother’s love and the stark reality of the choices she must make. VERDICT A great choice for book clubs and readers of Geraldine Brooks.” – Library Journal, Starred Review

“A powerful, authentic voice for a generation of women whose struggles were erased from history—a heart-smashing debut that completely satisfies.” —Jamie Ford, New York Times bestselling author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

“Beautifully written, emotionally resonant, and psychologically astute, Lilli de Jong is the story of an unwed mother in late 19th-century Philadelphia who, facing peril at every turn, will do almost anything to keep her daughter alive. Benton turns a laser eye to her subject, exposing the sanctimony, hypocrisies, and pervasive sexism that kept women confined and unequal in the Victorian era—and that still bedevil many women today. A gripping read.” —Christina Baker Kline, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Orphan Train and A Piece of the World

“A stunning ode to motherhood. Lilli de Jong reminds us that there is no formula to being a good mother. Love is the essential ingredient, and only it gives everlasting life to our legacies. A debut of robust heart that will stay with me for a very long time.” —Sarah McCoy, author of The Mapmaker’s Children

“Janet Benton’s remarkable novel Lilli de Jong is historical fiction that transcends the genre and recalls a past world so thoroughly that it breathes upon the page. From the first sentence, Lilli’s sensitive, observant, determined voice casts an irresistible spell. Benton combines rich, carefully researched detail with an imaginative boldness that is a joy to behold—though reader, be warned: Lilli’s story may break your heart.” —Valerie Martin, author of The Ghost of the Mary Celeste

“[A] gorgeously written debut . . . Lilli’s fight to craft her own life and nurture her bond with her baby is both devastatingly relevant and achingly beautiful. A stunning read about the fierceness of love triumphing over a rigid society.” —Caroline Leavitt, author of Is This Tomorrow

“The trials Lilli undertakes to keep her baby are heart-rending, and it’s a testament to Benton’s skill as a writer that the reader cannot help but bear witness. In a style reminiscent of Geraldine Brooks, she seamlessly weaves accurate historical detail as well as disturbing societal norms into the protagonist’s struggles . . . An absorbing debut from a writer to watch.” —Kirkus Reviews

“A heartrending debut . . . Benton’s exacting research fuels Lilli’s passionate, authentic voice that is ‘as strong as a hand on a drum . . . that pounds its urgent messages across a distance’ . . . Lilli’s inspiring power and touching determination are timeless.” —Publishers Weekly

“A harrowing look at the strictures of nineteenth-century American society. . . . [Lilli] is a full-fledged heroine, persevering despite seemingly insurmountable odds. . . her voice is distinctive, her fierceness driven by a mother’s love.” —Booklist

“I loved this novel. Lilli de Jong is deeply moving and richly imagined, both tragic and joyous. Janet Benton has an exceptional ability to bring history to life . . . It’s not only a compelling, beautifully crafted historical novel, however: it’s also important . . . Lilli’s life-and-death struggle is shockingly common to women even today.” —Sandra Gulland, author of the internationally bestselling Josephine B. Trilogy

“Writing with a historical eye akin to Geraldine Brooks and incisive prose matching that of Anthony Doerr, debut novelist Janet Benton magically weaves a gripping narrative of hardship, redemption, and hope while illuminating a portrait of little-known history. The result is an unforgettable and important reflection on the maternal and, ultimately, the human bond. Stunning!” —Pam Jenoff, author of The Kommandant’s Girl“A confident debut . . . Sentence by carefully-crafted sentence, Benton ensnares the reader.” —The Millions

Author Janet Benton, Biography –

03_Janet BentonJanet Benton’s work has appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Glimmer Train, and many other publications. She has co-written and edited historical documentaries for television. She holds a B.A. in religious studies from Oberlin College and an M.F.A. in creative writing from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and for decades she has taught writing and helped individuals and organizations craft their stories. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband and daughter. Lilli de Jong is her first novel.

Visit Janet Benton’s website for more information and updates. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads.

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Interview with Nicole Helget, author of Stillwater, on Literature, Writing, and Women’s Rights

Tonight, I have a highly anticipated (by me…) interview with author Nicole Helget about her most recent novel, Still water, and as well her life and opinions. I am highly inspired by her thoughts on our humanity, our nation, and women’s rights. You can see the review of Stillwater I did, HERE.  Enjoy!

Hi, Nicole! Welcome to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! I am very pleased to have you here. After reading through your site, I feel an enormous kinship with you, as I am also a writer, spend a lot of time outside and gather inspiration there, read and write poetry, and I am a mother. I feel my words and it’s why I write, and also, I feel the weight of our ancestor’s stories and a need to spread their history. But we’ll get to that in the interview….

Your third book, Stillwater, a novel that surrounds a town in the Civil War era Minnesota, has just launched and I hoped to sit down and talk to you a little about it and your writing. How have your survived the winter? Is your book launch going well?

Stillwater

Nicole: We are trying (trying!) to enjoy this beautiful winter despite the relentless frigid cold. I go out every morning and try to find animal life to remind myself that this will pass and the next season is coming. The book launch in Stillwater, Minnesota, was fabulous. Valley Bookstore and the historic Lowell Inn put on a wonderful party for us. I couldn’t have been happier. And, since then, readers, writers, librarians, book sellers, and bloggers have been an absolute joy to work with. Everyone really has the “Minnesota Nice” on.

Erin: Yes, we are trying here too in Ohio where we also are still having frigid temps and snow. In the quiet of the woods and country, the snow is quiet, peaceful, and beautiful…in the city and getting kids to school and running errands, and heading to work meetings…not so much!! Amazing how there are two sides to life! 

Since we both like to put our nose in the wind, let’s find a forest of pine, a bench, and I’ve brought along a thermos of hot tea since the wind is still a bit nippy. I hope you’ve brought your scarf….

Nicole: Oh, we’re well prepared for arctic temperatures here. I’ve got scarves, mittens, boots, snowpants, shovels, ice scrapers, whatever you need. Whiskey? Got that, too.

Erin: Ha! Let’s get started then, I’m anxious to learn more. When did you first discover your love of writing? How did it progress for you into not only a career, but something you are obviously very passionate about?

Nicole: I was in my mid-twenties before I wrote anything creatively. I read a lot before that, though. I taught high school and had a couple of babies. Then, I went back for a Master’s degree in education. But I met some cool people who thought I had a god storytelling style and who encouraged me to write and take creative writing classes, so I did. I won a University-sponsored writing contest, then a bigger one, and then a publishing company contacted me.

Erin: Which did discover first then, researching history or writing? How do both evolve together for you?

Nicole: I’ve always been a researcher. I like to look under things, in them, behind them. I’m just curious, I guess. I literally want to know everything about everything. Listening to smart people talk about their expertise makes me really happy. Writing became a way that I could work with that information, could sort it out, play with it, massage the nonfiction into a palatable story for people like me, who love curious historical tidbits and like a good chuckle every now and then and a solid lump in the throat before they go to bed.

Erin: Stillwater is set in Stillwater, Minnesota. Did I read correctly that this is a real town? Is it where you live or did you discover it? And if the latter, how? Why was it of importance to you or how did it allow you to set the scene of your novel?

Nicole: Stillwater is a beautiful town on the St. Croix River. I don’t live there, but I love the town in any case. It’s not that far from where I live. Stillwater is also considered the “birthplace of Minnesota.” The first real meeting and attempt to organize the state happened there. I knew of that event, of course since I’ve read a lot of Minnesota history and know a thing or two about westward expansion and such. Mostly, I like the natural elements around Stillwater, the river, the trees, and the air.

Erin: If you didn’t already state the inspiration for your novel above, what was your inspiration? How long did you spend researching?

Nicole: I’ve been “researching” for a very long time, before I knew I’d write a book about it. I love to read historical narratives and essays, and I’m particularly interested in Minnesota and Civil War history. A long while ago, I saw a photo of a man sitting on top of a log jam. The photo is from the St. Croix river in 1883. That man from the photo became my Clement.

Erin: In writing Stillwater, what surprised you most? Perhaps something you learned in your research or a character that took on its own form without prompting?

Nicole: At first, I thought that Beaver Jean, the bumbling fur trapper, was going to be a true villain, an obvious antagonist. But he took on a silly personality, and I grew to be quite fond of him. So, I couldn’t have him be 100% evil. I was also surprised by how the mothers took over the book. Originally, Clement was to be the main character. But, probably because I had two children during the writing of the book, all the moms wanted attention.

Erin: Are you a history lover or a lover of the connections history gives us? If the latter, is this what compels you to be a storyteller? How do you take a photo or a passage of a person and create a whole world stemming from that? Where do you begin?

Nicole: Both. I’m an amateur history buff, but I also see lots of connections to current events, usually because we haven’t solved the conflicts of the past. While writing, I go where the setting and characters take me. I never start with a plot in mind. That seems quite contrived to me. For me, conflict and plot develops out of the characters relationships with themselves, with each other, and with their environment.

Erin: What historical time periods most intrigue you? And why?

Nicole: I spend a lot of time in the pioneer days. The pioneer spirit interests me very much. I feel like I have it, even though I’m quite tethered to the home front with my job and children. My job, teaching at South Central College, provides me the opportunity to work with new pioneers through my international students. I have students who have been in the country for less than a year. I’m so amazed and intrigued by their stories, especially since the push and pull factors today are so similar to the ones for the early settlers.

Erin: Besides the Civil War, what historical time periods do we still need to learn from in our modern age? What lessons have we just not “gotten” yet?

Nicole: That’s a good question. I’m going to stick with the US for this one. There’s a lot to be learned from the Dust Bowl, of course, so we don’t forget what happens when we put too much pressure and bad stewardship on our environment. I think we should revisit the 80s and review what happens when deregulation runs rampant. And, though this is related to the Civil War, I think all citizens should be very aware of and sensitive to the fact that this country was built at the expense of many people, blacks and Native Americans chiefly, for the benefit of other people, whites, and that the social and economic consequences of those battles and genocides and enslavement take centuries to fix, not decades. I’d also add that this country’s pervasive and tenacious grip on sexism is a thing that will prohibit America’s greatest achievements until we recognize it and fix it. I am an enormous Obama supporter, but I think it’s remarkable that we picked him over a more qualified woman.

Erin comments: Excellent, you inspire me. I agree, I hope that we are able to change that in the next election. My hopes are high. We campaigned for the current President to win, but yes, I agree, it is time for women to respected as the intelligent, organized, and amazing people we are!

Erin: I know you are a fan of gothic Southern literature. Who inspires your writing? Who do you like to read? Why are these novels and authors of importance on today’s literary shelves?

Nicole: I read mostly poetry and historical nonfiction. I’ve also been reading the essays of John Muir. I do like William Faulkner and Flannery O’Connor and Toni Morrison. I also really like Larry McMurtry, Frederick Manfred, Willa Cather, Louise Erdrich, and Denis Johnson. I like Mark Richard and Herman Melville and Annie Proulx and Kate DiCammilo and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, too. Basically, I like anyone whose art struggles against the expectations. I think all of these writers do that. Their writing is deep, knowing, surprising, compassionate, fun. There’s nothing better than a big, bold idea in the hands of a craftsman.

Erin: I also feel connected to a certain set of ancestors and some of it has to do with passing down old world baking recipes. Do you have a special recipes you keep tradition with in your household?

Nicole: Oh sure. You in the mood for sauerkraut and potato dumplings (knadels) and schmierkuchen?

Erin: What women of history inspire you or do you look upon with great fondness? Who were women trailblazers in your mind? And why?

Nicole: I think Elizabeth Cady Stanton was absolutely wonderful (despite some nasty words she threw Frederick Douglass’ way). She was the force and the words behind the suffrage movement. Every speech Susan B. Anthony ever uttered was written by Cady Stanton. Cady Stanton couldn’t travel the way Anthony could because she had a houseful of children to tend to.

Sacajawea, of course, comes to mind, the poor thing. My God. Can you imagine? Pregnant, birthing, and nursing with a canoe caravan of voyageurs who weren’t even sure what they were looking for?

Erin: How far do you think America has come in terms of women’s rights? Is there still room for improvement?

Nicole: Oh yes. Lots and lots of room for improvement. Childcare and time off for maternity leave has got to be easier. Health care has got to be free. Contraception has got to be free. Education has got to be free and equal. Religious zealots need to mostly go away. I teach late afternoon and night classes. I often have young women who say they need to miss class because of family obligations. My contribution is that I can be flexible. Can a new mother nurse her baby in my classroom? YES! Can I accept online work from a woman home with a sick child? ABSOLUTELY! This whole country needs to think more creatively and flexibly. Flexibility is structured, too. Women’s structure tends to adapt with the phases of their children. Why can’t the work world’s and education realm adapt to that?

Erin: YES, in full agreement!!

Erin: What other books have you written in addition to Stillwater?

Nicole: The Summer of Ordinary Ways, The Turtle Catcher, and Horse Camp. Wonder at the Edge of the World is coming out next year.

Erin: I read that you are a mother of six and yet you seem to work tirelessly. I am a mother of three (ages 6, 10, 14) so I don’t know how you keep it all together. What is your secret? How do you find alone time to let your muse breathe?

My muse breathes amidst a lot of chaos somehow! Ha. I have a lot of help. My kids have great dads. My kids are good to each other and patient of me.

Erin: I hate to draw the interview to a close because I have so much I could ask you. But I know you are busy and I’ve taken up already so much time. Where can readers and writers connect with you?

Nicole: You can follow along with my kids and me at nicolehelget.blogspot.com. You can find my twitter and instagram there, too.

Erin: Where is the best place for readers to purchase your books?

Nicole: Independent bookstores! But also Barnes and Noble and Amazon.

Erin: It has been a pleasure to have you here, Nicole. You are an amazing woman and I hope you’ll come back by the site in the future for even more discussion. Next time, maybe the air won’t be so chilly and we’ll have a longer walk and talk. Until then, I wish you much success with your writing and blessings to you and your family.

Nicole: Thanks so much! This was so fun. I love readers and readers who blog!

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Stillwater, Synopsis~

StillwaterPublication Date: February 4, 2014
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Hardcover; 336p
ISBN-10: 0547898207

Clement and Angel are fraternal twins separated at birth; they grow up in the same small, frontier logging town of Stillwater, Minnesota. Clement was left at the orphanage. Angel was adopted by the town’s richest couple, but is marked and threatened by her mother’s mental illness. They rarely meet, but Clement knows if he is truly in need, Angel will come to save him.

Stillwater, near the Mississippi River and Canada, becomes an important stop on the Underground Railroad. As Clement and Angel grow up and the country marches to war, their lives are changed by many battles for freedom and by losses in the struggle for independence, large and small.

Stillwater reveals the hardscrabble lives of pioneers, nuns, squaws, fur trappers, loggers, runaway slaves and freedmen, outlaws and people of conscience, all seeking a better, freer, more prosperous future. It is a novel about mothers, about siblings, about the ways in which we must take care of one another and let go of one another. And it’s brought to us in Nicole Helget’s winning, gorgeous prose.

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Author Nicole Helget, Biography~

Nicole HelgetBorn in 1976, NICOLE LEA HELGET grew up on a farm in southern Minnesota, a childhood and place she drew on in the writing of her memoir, The Summer of Ordinary Ways.

She received her BA and an MFA in creative writing from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Based on the novel’s first chapter, NPR’s Scott Simon awarded The Turtle Catcher the Tamarack Prize from Minnesota Monthly.

Nicole Helget shares her thoughts on writing and her influences, as well as beautiful photos of her family (including six children!) at her blog. You can also follow her on Twitter.

You can see more reviews and posts from Stillwater tour with Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours here:

Tour Page: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/stillwatertour

Tour Hashtag: #StillwaterTour

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Discussing What Makes Gothic Literature: Guest Article by Author Stephanie Carroll

Today I have a guest article by Stephanie Carroll, the author of the debut novel, A White Room. Her book has a Victorian Gothic feel and so she discusses what might make a gothic novel, based on her research, and also her opinion on the subject. She asks a few questions of readers at the end of her article, so she’d love for you to take a minute to comment if you’ve read the post. What does “gothic novel” mean to you?

Also, we’ve had a giveaway running for an e-copy of A White Room for a few months (see my review of A White Room HERE and my interview with Stephanie HERE). Please make sure to enter to win by going to her website here: http://www.stephaniecarroll.net/p/the-binding-of-saint-barbara.html and clicking on the Rafflecopter Giveaway under Oh, for the Hook of a Book. Open until August 31, 2013! Best of luck!

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What Exactly is The Gothic Novel?
by Stephanie Carroll, Author of A White Room

Reviewers have compared my debut novel A White Room to the classic gothic novels The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson and Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier (thank you Oh, For the Hook of a Book!). I was so delighted when this happened because I wrote my novel in a way I felt was reminiscent of gothic fiction, but when I looked at other gothic novels, mine didn’t seem very gothic in comparison. That led me to wonder, what exactly is a gothic novel?

Note:  I’m not an expert on the gothic novel, so I am including my sources for where I got my information, and for you, in case you’d like to do further research.

A White Room 350x525

The Origin of Gothic

The term gothic actually derives from the Visigoths and Ostrogoths (the barbarians) who conquered Rome in the 5th Century A.D. After the collapse of Rome, the world fell into a dark age and the Goths were ultimately forgotten until artists and architects rediscovered Greco-Roman culture during the Renaissance. They began to refer to certain (barbaric) architecture built during the middle ages as gothic even though it wasn’t necessarily built by the Goths. These were castles, mansions, and abbeys, many of which were in ruins.

The Gothic Novel – UC Davis

crumbling ruins

Crumbling Ruins Photo Credit: L Grove via photopin cc

 The Original Gothic Novel

Writers developed the first gothic novels in England from 1790 to 1830. These works were termed gothic because they took place in and around gothic buildings and architecture. Many themes and conventions developed that also came to define the gothic novel. In addition to usually taking place in a mansion, castle, or abbey, these buildings were often in ruins in the story, which created a mood of mystery and dread because it reminded readers of a world lost, a fallen society, or a world in decay. The hero was usually isolated in some way, and the villain was usually a man who had fallen from grace and represented the epitome of evil.

These novels also dealt with serious real-world fears like murder, rape, and sin, but on an exaggerated level and often times through the supernatural, so the gothic novel also became associated with horror fiction. Some examples of gothic literature from this time period are Matthew G. Lewis’s The Monk and Ann Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho.

The Gothic Novel – UC Davis

mansion door

Mansion Dorr Photo Credit: Shoes_on_wires via photopin cc

 Victorian Gothic

Another form of the gothic novel came about in the Victorian Era starting in the 1880s (my kind of gothic). The setting, again, played a role and usually involved a large, dark mansion. Like the previous gothic novels, these dealt with frightening real-world themes also on an exaggerated level and with the use of the supernatural. This is when Bram Stoker’s Dracula was written. Victorian fears seen in gothic fiction included insanity, sexuality, incest, and the fear of progress.

At this time, the modern world was quickly advancing in science and technology (automobiles, electricity, etc.) and society had its concerns about the consequences to mankind. This is quite obvious in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, which reveal society’s fears by demonstrating the horrors technology could have on the human body.

According to experts, the gothic novel is a cyclic occurrence in literature, something that is revived to express or deal with society’s anxieties.

Victorian fin de Seicle – gothic literature pathfinder

The Modern Gothic Novel

Gothic culture has boomed in the twentieth century in style, music, movies, and more. The modern gothic novel is a little bit more difficult to pin down though. Some people would argue that the thriving horror and gore genres are our modern day gothic. Others would argue that the modern gothic would be anything similar to the works of Tim Burton, whose dark, macabre style has been a focal point of gothic culture for years.

Yet, if you look around the internet for the modern day gothic novel, you will find all kinds of suggestions. Horror Novel Reviews lists The Body by Stephen King (later made into the classic and awesome film Stand by Me) as a modern day example of a gothic novel. Goodreads lists Kate’s Morton’s The Forgotten Garden. Amazon UK lists The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty.

An Opinion

From what I can tell, all gothic novels in the past were contingent on a few specific elements.

In all of the original gothic novels, a creepy old castle or mansion was in the mix. Now you might be thinking that means only writers willing to set their novels in the past can qualify, but keep in mind that the original gothic authors were placing contemporary characters into a setting that was old and decaying. They weren’t setting their stories in the past when those buildings were in use.

Now, I don’t know if I would go as far as to say that the architecture has to be from the middle ages. The Victorian gothic novel didn’t stick to middle ages architecture, but the setting was usually in a large, dark mansion, which felt reminiscent of that architecture. Or those mansions may have all technically been gothic architecture as there was a gothic revival in architecture in the Victorian Era. However, I don’t have a source that confirms that theory.

Something else that seems to define the gothic novel is the presence of contemporary anxieties that often tap into our darkest fears. In that definition The Body would qualify, but I just can’t accept that movie as gothic because it doesn’t have the dark aesthetic.

What does modern day gothic style, music, and movies prove about gothic culture? It’s contingent on the dark aesthetic. I don’t think that dark aesthetic has to be historical in nature, but I do think it needs to be there in order for something to be categorized as gothic. Now does that mean it needs to be at a Tim Burton level? No! Definitely not! I think the gothic aesthetic can be achieved in many ways, and I’m sure there are all kinds of novels that qualify.

In my opinion, to be truly loyal to the origins of gothic though, a novel needs a traditional or similar setting, dark aesthetic, and themes involving mankind’s deepest, darkest fears. Dealing with those fears using the supernatural is a major bonus.

With that definition a novel like The Forgotten Garden would fit, but how many people would say they recognized it as gothic? And what about novels that only have one of these three aspects—that includes my own novel— or none at all but still seem recognizable as gothic?

Well, one answer is that my definition is totally wrong. =/

Another possibility is that novels that fit the genre but don’t appear gothic or others that don’t fit the genre but do appear gothic might not be true to the tradition, but might be on the verge of a new gothic genre, subgenre, or adjacent genre, which is much more exciting than subscribing to what has already been done.

It’s called breaking tradition, and what’s awesome is that actually goes back to the tradition of the gothic novel. The original gothic novels were born out of the Romantic tradition in literature, but the authors used the gothic novel to break Romantic conventions and created something brand new. (The Gothic Novel – UC Davis)

goth girl

Goth Girl Photo Credit: violscraper via photopin cc

 So what is your opinion? What do you think are the modern gothic novels of our day?

What do you think makes a novel gothic at all?

 Author Stephanie Carroll, Biography~

Author Photo at Irwin Street Inn - CopyAs 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 writes The Unhinged Historian blog, exploring the dark side of the Victorian Era and Gilded Age, and Unhinged & Empowered Navy Wives for conquering those little moments that make Navy Wives feel crazy. Stephanie lives 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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Advanced Praise for A White Room

“A novel of grit, independence, and determination … An intelligent story, well told.”

—Renée Thompson, author of The Plume Hunter and The Bridge at Valentine

“The best historical fiction makes you forget it’s fiction and forget it’s historical. Reminiscent of The Yellow Wallpaper … the thoughtful, intricate story Carroll relates is absolutely mesmerizing.”

—Eileen Walsh, Ph.D. U.S. Women’s History, University of San Diego

 A White Room, Synopsis~

A White Room 350x525At the close of the Victorian Era, society still expected middle-class women to be “the angels of the house,” even as a select few strived to become something more. In this time of change, Emeline Evans dreamed of becoming a nurse. But when her father dies unexpectedly, Emeline sacrifices her ambitions and rescues her family from destitution by marrying John Dorr, a reserved lawyer who can provide for her family.

John moves Emeline to the remote Missouri town of Labellum and into an unusual house where her sorrow and uneasiness edge toward madness. Furniture twists and turns before her eyes, people stare out at her from empty rooms, and the house itself conspires against her. The doctor diagnoses hysteria, but the treatment merely reinforces the house’s grip on her mind.

Emeline only finds solace after pursuing an opportunity to serve the poor as an unlicensed nurse. Yet in order to bring comfort to the needy she must secretly defy her husband, whose employer viciously hunts down and prosecutes unlicensed practitioners. Although women are no longer burned at the stake in 1900, disobedience is a symptom of psychological defect, and hysterical women must be controlled.

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Reminders: Enter the giveaway via link at beginning of the post! Also, Stephanie would love your comments on her questions posted about gothic literature; those are located at the end of her post.

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A White Room, debut historical novel by Stephanie Carroll, Takes on Secrets, Madness, Gender, and Human Rights in 1900s America

Oh, for the Hook of a Book! is pleased to review A White Room by Stephanie Carroll today as the launching point on the start of her summer virtual tour!  After the review and details, please take part in a chance to win her debut novel as well as check out all the other tour dates in which she’ll be interviewed and also have some interesting guest articles. And if you’d comment at the end of the post by clicking “comment” by the bottom footer, Stephanie will be availabe to answer any questions or comments you have! Enjoy!

A White Room 350x525Emma is terrified of her house. It moves, creaks, and seems alive. Is the terror truly there or is it in her own head? Is her isolation driving her mad or is her madness making her isolated?

A White Room by Stephanie Carroll is a historical novel showcasing the plight of women in the early 20th Century, where desperation for women with dreams and desires outside of working in the home could blur the lines between sanity and insanity.  Where men ruled the towns, the families, and the plight of every woman. Where high society women betrayed, humiliated, and bullied other women for wanting more than to launder, cook, and clean.

Emeline (Emma) Evans’ beloved father, who encouraged her dreams of helping people through nursing and had the funds to send her for an education, dies leaving her mother, her siblings, and her in sudden poverty.  Not knowing how else to help her family, she pleads to a family once helped by her father to let her marry their son. Once they agree, she is thrown into an undesirable situation by the new husband, John Dorr, who moves her far away from any family to start a new isolated life in a gothic home that reeks of sorrow and desires unmet.

Coupled with the fact that the only human contact, besides their a few-days-a-week maid who helped her with the incessant chores, were the high society women in the church who ran committees for profit or invited her low rung young husband lawyer to dine at their homes where she inevitably made mistakes.

Society in the early 1900s didn’t approve of women working outside of the home…their duty was to lug and hand wash dishes, launder clothing by hand, starch, iron, cook, scrub floors on hands and knees, be a dutiful wife and have sons…even if they had an education.  Emma knows some of these chores are important for daily life, but yet it seems she cleans for them to be dirty again, cooks what is consumed, and none feel meaningful and have a lasting effect on change or the world or community. She wants to do something important.

And here is where her dedication to herself, her desire to assist those in need, her intelligence and independence, almost drive her mad. Her intimidating eerie home starts messing with her mind. The furniture moves, reflections are odd, yellow eyes glow from the bushes. All this leads to her getting a straight ticket to a diagnosis of hysteria, which means she is confined even further to a bedroom with stark white walls in contrast to the dreary decor of the rest of the house. As the terrors of the home and her thoughts bring her to more paranoia, she flees the home and begins to defy her plight. She starts practicing her nursing, unlicensed and in secret, even as her husband’s law firm boss is hunting down these types of medical practitioners.

Will Emma’s rebellion cause her more pain and confine her further or redeem her from her life of madness and isolation? I highly recommend you read this book to find out. It’s an amazing story of a woman’s determination to use her intelligence and heart to help others, even at cost or danger to herself.

Carroll does a superb job of pulling the reader in from the start. We feel as if we are Emma, her thoughts and actions and worries so pervasive to our own minds.  Just as the house seeps in to our bones and we feel it closing around us as Emma does, as we feel the creepiness making the hair on our arms raise, just as we ourselves might go mad out of anger for Emma’s life, a redeeming break happens. The light enters in and Emma shines.

I totally loved this book. It’s been described as being similar to Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper (where a woman becomes obsessed with the wallpaper bedroom), Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden, and Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. Though I concur that all that is true, I go further by being reminded of why the gothic writing work and home remind me of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s House of the Seven Gables (he and I are descended from the same family tree and his work is a favorite of mine) and some of the works of V.C. Andrews, such as Flowers in the Attic. She gives us a gothic feel reminiscent of Daphne de Maurier’s works.

If you have an open mind, or want your eyes to be opened, especially in terms of women’s servitude of the mind that has been happening for ages, this book is a must read. Women’s rights activists like me will highly covet this book as it brings about the secrets of the Gilded Age and also shows how it still transcends into society today.

The content and intricacies of this book are excellent.  I can’t give this book enough great accolades, so don’t hesitate, just read it! If you’re a fan of 20th Century culture, women’s issues, or eerie, haunting work, add this one to your list. Carroll is definitely an author not to be missed and I look forward to more permeating work from her in the future.

A White Room, Synopsis~

A White Room 350x525At the close of the Victorian Era, society still expected middle-class women to be “the angels of the house,” even as a select few strived to become something more. In this time of change, Emeline Evans dreamed of becoming a nurse. But when her father dies unexpectedly, Emeline sacrifices her ambitions and rescues her family from destitution by marrying John Dorr, a reserved lawyer who can provide for her family.

John moves Emeline to the remote Missouri town of Labellum and into an unusual house where her sorrow and uneasiness edge toward madness. Furniture twists and turns before her eyes, people stare out at her from empty rooms, and the house itself conspires against her. The doctor diagnoses hysteria, but the treatment merely reinforces the house’s grip on her mind.

Emeline only finds solace after pursuing an opportunity to serve the poor as an unlicensed nurse. Yet in order to bring comfort to the needy she must secretly defy her husband, whose employer viciously hunts down and prosecutes unlicensed practitioners. Although women are no longer burned at the stake in 1900, disobedience is a symptom of psychological defect, and hysterical women must be controlled.

A novel of madness and secrets, A White Room presents a fantastical glimpse into the forgotten cult of domesticity, where one’s own home could become a prison and a woman has to be willing to risk everything to be free.

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Giveaway~

Want a chance to WIN a copy of Stephanie Carroll’s A White Room? Sign-up for her Rafflecopter giveaway for an e-book version of this exceptional book! Good luck!

Win a copy of A White Room! Click Link Below~

A Rafflecopter giveaway

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Stephanie Carroll, Biography~

Author Photo at Irwin Street Inn - CopyAs 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). A White Room is her debut novel.

Stephanie blogs and writes fiction in California, where her husband is stationed with the U.S. Navy. Her website is www.stephaniecarroll.net.

Connect with Stephanie Carroll~

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Endorsements~

“A novel of grit, independence, and determination … An intelligent story, well told.”

—Renée Thompson, author of The Plume Hunter and The Bridge at Valentine

“The best historical fiction makes you forget it’s fiction and forget it’s historical. Reminiscent of The Yellow Wallpaper … the thoughtful, intricate story Carroll relates is absolutely mesmerizing.”

—Eileen Walsh, Ph.D. U.S. Women’s History, University of San Diego

A White Room, Details~

A White Room 350x525

by Stephanie Carroll

June 2013

408 Pages

Soft Cover: $14.99

eBook: $3.99

Publisher: Unhinged Books

ISBN: 978-0-9888674-0-6

eBook ISBN:

978-0-9888674-1-3

LCCN: 2013930913

The author photo was taken by Corey Ralston Photography and the cover was designed by Jenny Q of Historical Editorial and the original painting is Lady Astor by John Singer Sargent, 1909.

Available in Print and eBook

AmazonBarnes & NobleSonyKoboInkteraSmashwords

Soon to be available on Apple’s iBooks and Baker & Taylor’s Blio

A White Room Blog Tour Dates

A White Room 350x525Weds, June 19 – Oh, For the Hook of a Book:  Tour Kick-off!!  Book Review and Giveaway

Thurs, June 20 – Hazel the Witch:  Interview

Sat, June 22 – Reading in Ecuador:  

Guest Post: How to Write Characters You Hate and Characters You Love to Hate

Mon, June 24 – The Bookish Dame:  Interview

Thurs, June 27 – Momma Bears Book Blog:  

Guest Post: The Story Behind Emeline’s Mental Distress

Tues, July 2 – I am Indeed:  Guest Post: Historical Accuracy in Historical Fiction

Mon, July 8 – Bookfari:  Interview and Giveaway

Tues, July 9 – Hazel the Witch

Guest Post – How to Write the Inner Thoughts of a Crazy Person – Finding Meaning in Insanity?

Weds, July 10 – Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers: Review 

Fri, July 12 – Lost to Books:  Guest Post TBA and Giveaway

Mon, July 15 – A Writer of History:  Guest Post: Writing an Era – Where to Begin?

Weds, July 17 – Michelle’s Romantic Tangle:  Interview

Thurs, July 18 – Oh, For the Hook of a Book:  Interview

Tues, July 23 – Unabridged Chick:  Review and Giveaway

Thurs July 25 – Ravings and Ramblings:  Review and Interview

Tues July 30 – Reading the Past:  Giveaway and Guest Post:

Writing and Historical Thought – They Didn’t Think Like We Did 100 Years Ago

 Sat, Aug. 3 – History and Women:  Guest Post: Victorian Women and the Mystery of Sex 

Be sure to check out all her interviews and guest articles throughout the summer. And stop back by Oh, for the Hook of a Book! for our interview with Stephanie!

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Casade is a Refreshing Novel of Literary Distinction that Deals with Change, Hope, and Dreams

CascadeCascade, by Maryanne O’Hara, is a beautifully written book. At the same time poignant and heart-wrenching, it’s also touching, revealing, and strong in the essence of knowing oneself.  At times when we don’t always know what is the best decision, this book shows a way to have the power to not meet societal norms or dictates, but to follow your heart and your mind’s desires.

I’m so happy to have read Cascade, as it shows a depression-era woman defying the odds and following her own true path.  It’s a vibrant novel that deals with the true issue of women’s rights. The right to own her own thoughts, plans, ideas, and to formulate her own journey. Women still struggle with this today, but in the 1930s, especially with the financial foundation of America crumbling, women did not usually have the means to pursue their dreams, especially creative dreams. People were losing money, which meant less was spent on luxury items like art, theatre, writing, and weekend get-aways.

Taking place in these bad economic times, the novel opens with artist Desdemona Hart Spaulding knowing she should be content with her good-looking Lindbergh look-alike and rich-to-the-times pharmacist husband even if she doesn’t love him….or want kids badly, as he does with a virulent immediacy. 

Dez is an artist and wishes to pursue her dreams, but she made the decision to marry him to survive at the moment.  Her father’s town playhouse was losing money, as most things were during the Great Depression, and he fell ill.  When he died, he left the playhouse to Dez’s husband, Asa. As she struggles with having made that decision to marry Asa, and vies with herself about not being able to be happy with being content, she meets a Jewish salesman, Jacob, of whom she shares a love of art.

Amid her own internal struggle is the dilemma in the town of Cascade, Massachusetts, where she lives at the opening of the book. Cascade is on the government’s list as a possible site to drown under water in the overflow from a new reservoir being built for Boston. She feverently wants to save her father’s Shakespearean theater, but it’s closed for business and not many rich city dwellers are apt to return to see the plays anymore.  She uses her artistic and creative ideas in order to add to the fight against the state government, showcasing the loveliness of Cascade. I enjoyed reading about her creative ideas as I also enjoy art as well as fighting for great causes in creative ways.

However, when her idea brings household recognition, she sees her dreams of being a professional artist within her sights and New York City keeps calling. Then there is Jacob. A murder. And a mystery is added to the mix.

Overall, the book truly deals with Dez’s emotional turmoil to come to terms with feeling confident about making her own decisions as a woman. She worries over pleasing others with her decisions, but just can never shake the feeling that she isn’t where she belongs.

Cascade was emotionally saturated with grief, loss, love, hope, survival, and desire. Above all, it takes the reader on a journey about change and being true to self. It was a great reminder about tossing the feelings of guilt that come with pursuing creative dreams.  I throughly loved this book and it’s a must read for fans of true literary fiction.

Note:  This is a great book for book clubs, reading groups, or discussion-oriented platforms. There is much to discuss in this book including women’s roles in society and family, government “land issues,”  living in a hurting economy, fighting for a cause, and more.

Come back tomorrow for an exclusive interview with Maryanne, where she discusses some topics you won’t want to miss, plus there will be a giveaway!

 CASCADE, Synopsis~

CascadePublication Date: April 30, 2013
Publisher: Penguin Books
Paperback; 384p

A Slate Magazine “Best Books 2012″
A People Magazine “People Pick”
A Library Journal 2012 “Best Bet”

During the 1930s in a small town fighting for its survival, a conflicted new wife seeks to reconcile her artistic ambitions with the binding promises she has made

Fans of Richard Russo, Amor Towles, Sebastian Barry, and Paula McLain will devour this transporting novel about the eternal tug between our duties and our desires, set during in New York City and New England during the Depression and New Deal eras.

It’s 1935, and Desdemona Hart Spaulding has sacrificed her plans to work as an artist in New York to care for her bankrupt, ailing father in Cascade, Massachusetts. When he dies, Dez finds herself caught in a marriage of convenience, bound to the promise she made to save her father’s Shakespeare Theater, even as her town may be flooded to create a reservoir for Boston. When she falls for artist Jacob Solomon, she sees a chance to escape and realize her New York ambitions, but is it morally possible to set herself free?

Praise for CASCADE

“The protagonist is Desdemona Hart, a woman drowning in the choices she’s been forced to make: a marriage of necessity to save her father’s legacy and put a roof over his head as he dies……trouble escalates, and so will the rate at which you turn the pages. Cascade is perfect for sitting by the fire on a chilly day contemplating the immutability of things.” –Slate: 2012 Best Books, Staff Picks

“When state engineers created the Quabbin Reservoir in the 1930s, four Central Massachusetts towns disappeared beneath the waters. In her debut novel, Cascade, Ashland resident Maryanne O’Hara chronicles the fate of one such (fictionalized) town and its inhabitants, notably Desdemona Hart Spaulding, an ambitious artist trapped in a loveless marriage. O’Hara, a former Ploughshares fiction editor, shapes her protagonist’s story to pose questions like: If art is not lastingly valuable, what is? Ponder that over your next glass of tap water.” –Boston Globe, Best of the New, 2012

“Gorgeously written and involving, Cascade explores the age-old conflict between a woman’s perceived duty and her deepest desires, but in O’Hara’s skilled hands the struggle feels fresh and new.” –People Magazine

Link to the Official Book Trailer: http://www.maryanneohara.com/cascade-trailer/

Author Maryanne O’Hara, Biography~

Maryanne O'HaraMaryanne O’Hara was the longtime associate fiction editor at the award-winning literary journal Ploughshares. She received her MFA from Emerson College fifteen years ago, and wrote short fiction that was widely published before committing to the long form. She lives on a river near Boston.

www.maryanneohara.com

 

 

 

 

Link to Tour Schedule: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/cascadevirtualtour/
Twitter Hashtag: #CascadeVirtualTour

Cascade Tour Banner FINAL

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