LitPicks Book Reviews—June / July 2014

Theme—The Bawdy Politic
A double standard has long existed when it comes to the feminine body: what's acceptable for the gander?...not so for the goose. The daring heroines of this month's books take issue with that standard, fighting it in ways that even today we find troublesome. But what's a girl to do?
 
Labels: A Lighter Touch

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The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress
Ariel Lawhon, 2014
308 pp.

Book Review by Molly Lundquist
June 2014

It's a fair bet we won't get much character depth when a single paragraph extols a woman's fine-boned hand, her tangle of pale curls, and tanned shoulders. The same is true with silly descriptions of eyes...cold, flashing, flinty, or otherwise.

But a bit of clunky writing is easy to overlook in this delicious tale of lust and corruption from the 1930s. Ariel Lawhon has dusted off a piece of real history, reimagining an unsolved crime that had once grabbed headlines across the country. Her novel approaches the story from the point of view of the three women involved.

 

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Belle Cora
Phillip Margulies, 2014
592 pp.

Book Review by Molly Lundquist
June, 2014
Margulies has given America its own version of Moll Flanders. His heroine, Belle Cora, a prostitute and madame, is as richly drawn as her 17th-century English progenitor. Like Moll, Belle mesmerizes—and shocks—characters and readers alike with her beauty, intelligence, and endless stratagems.

This is no sedate tale of Victorian manners nor a sentimental glance backward to a golden era. Margulies has stripped away the mythology of a young country to reveal its grittiness and corruption. It is the mid-1800's—when America was raw and earthy—and Belle Cora's story reflects those times.

 
Labels: Great Works

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Moll Flanders: The History and the Misfortunes of the Famoius Moll Flanders
Daniel Defoe, 1721
368 pp.

Book Review by Molly Lundquist
June 2014

Virginia Woolf referred to Moll Flanders as one of the "indisputably great" novels of the English language. Yet not everyone thought (or thinks) so. Defoe was one of the founders of the new-fangled novel in the 17th century, and after more than 300 years of practice, it's tempting to find fault with those early steps. And so we do, but all the while admiring Defoe's brilliance.

Still, no one disputes this single fact: Moll Flanders herself remains one of the most dazzling heroines of all time.

 

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