Alice in Bed

Alice in Bed

Book - 2015
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Arm yourself against my dawn, which may at any moment cast you and Harry into obscurity , Alice James writes her brother William in 1891. In Judith Hooper's magnificent novel, zingers such as this fly back and forth between the endlessly articulate and letter-writing Jameses, all of whom are geniuses at gossiping.

And the James family did, in fact, know everyone intellectually important on both sides of the Atlantic, but by the time we meet her in 1889, Alice has been sidelined and is lying in bed in Leamington, England, after taking London by storm.

We don't know what's wrong with Alice. No one does, though her brothers have inventive theories, and the best of medical science offers no help. So, with Alice in bed, we travel to London and Paris, where the James children spent part of their unusual childhood. We sit with her around the James family's dinner table, as she - the youngest and the only girl - listens to the intellectual elite of Boston, missing nothing. The book is accompanied by Hooper's Afterword,"What was Wrong with Alice?," an analysis of the varied psychological ills of the James family and Alice's own medical history.
Publisher: Berkeley, CA : Counterpoint, [2015]
Copyright Date: ©2015
ISBN: 9781619025714
Characteristics: vi, 392 pages ; 24 cm


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Dec 27, 2017

I found this imagined memoir of Alice James (sister of Henry and William) hard to put down. I thought the fierce personalities came through even from what feels like a long past era. I loved the end piece where the author speculates on Alice's physical and psychological states in modern terms.

Feb 16, 2016

This was a fascinating account of what it could have been like for a woman suffering during the hysteria craze, before doctors knew anything much about what caused certain illnesses. The fact that it had its roots based on a real person and real journals from the time period made it authentic; it wasn't just anyone either - Alice was the younger sister of the famous and privileged James family. The reading goes a bit more slowly because the vocabulary and style are rich and complicated. Worth every minute though. I don't think the title does the book justice - it could have been more descriptive, as was the prose.

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