We RATS have been reading historical fiction lately and I decided that I should wrench myself out of medieval England and read something different. I came across The Women of Magdalene by Rosemary Poole-Carter set in post Civil War Lousiana. Certainly something different. It involves a young doctor, estranged from his family, who is walking to Magdalene, an asylum for women, to take a position as the house doctor. He has been given the job as a favor from one of his father’s former colleagues. On the way he finds the body of a woman in a creek. She is one of the inmates and he arrives carrying her body and thus begins his career at Magdalene. Sounds odd–and depressing, but what a beautifully written book it turned out to be. The prose is very evocative and has a melancholy, almost sepia quality like a worn, antique photograph. It reminded me of a short film I saw long ago called An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, based on a short story by Ambrose Bierce of the same name. It has almost the same rhythm, but the ending is less of a jerk and more of a slide to the inevitable. Though racism and the paternalistic almost mysogynistic attitude toward women are themes, they take their place within the context of the whole–touching, moving without being strident. I hope Ms. Poole-Carter will write more. This is only her second book and the first is out of print. I’m waiting for my interloaned copy to come in so I can spend more time in the places she creates.
I’ll have to give this a read. I love historical fiction & your review sounds really interesting.
Dear Becky “The Cerebral Rat”,
I just learned of your review of my book and wish to thank you for taking the time to read Women of Magdalene and post such thoughtful comments. You give me courage to try again tomorrow on my novel-in-progress.
Liked the review! Your evocative language was perfect for describing such an evocative book.
Rosemary–I am so glad that you are working on another novel. I look forward to reading it and I have recommended Women of Magdalene to co-workers and patrons. It was such a lovely surprise to come across it and it turned out to be a real treasure. Keep writing! I’ll think of you.