Buy This Book: Captivity by Deborah Noyes
In this new work of historical fiction, Noyes (Angels and Apostles) effectively offers two separate stories, both taking place in mid-19th-century America and England. First, there is the story of Clara Gill, a reclusive illustrator spinster shut away from the world at large in her father's home in Rochester, NY. Clara's sternness and acute observations often intimidate the few people with whom she does interact, and as she is no longer young, her prospects in life are diminished. The second narrative focuses on the strange circumstances concerning two young sisters, Maggie and Kate Fox, whose lives takes a decidedly notorious turn when it is believed that they are able to communicate with the dead. When Clara, her father, and the Fox family become intertwined, Clara finds in Maggie something of a friend, which prompts her to begin to examine her own earlier life in London. Never knowing whether Maggie and Katie are charlatans, Clara nevertheless admires the girls' tenacity in warding off skeptics and continuing to offer seances to interested people. VERDICT: A novel of beguiling characters that probes both belief and the veracity of emotion, this endlessly fascinating work should be considered by all fiction readers.Yes! What Library Journal said. And then some.
Though it is definitely a slice of feminist history brought to life, the emotional and idealogical beef in this book never overrun the telling of a deeply chilling tale. I've been fascinated by the true story of the Fox sisters since I was a kid, and Deborah Noyes imaginatively, skillfully twists that thread into a literary cat's cradle. You come away with the realization that the living are far more mysterious (and sometimes scarier) than the dead. I'd love to see this book embraced not just by bookclubs, but by high school and college English classes, where students would be drawn in by the supernatural hook and end up thinking about the cultural realities.
So that's all I can do today, but--yeah. Buy this book. Read. Absorb. Then let's all meet up in an airport bar somewhere and discuss. Meanwhile, click here for an excerpt and more info.