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Captivityby Deborah Noyes
Synopses & Reviews
This masterful historical novel by Deborah Noyes, the lauded author of Angel and Apostle, The Ghosts of Kerfol, and Encyclopedia of the End (starred PW) is two stories:
The first centers upon the strange, true tale of the Fox Sisters, the enigmatic family of young women who, in upstate New York in 1848, proclaimed that they could converse with the dead. Doing so, they unwittingly (but artfully) gave birth to a religious movement that touched two continents: the American Spiritualists.
The second story in Captivity is about loss and grief. It is the evocative tale of the bright promise that the Fox Sisters offer up to the skeptical Clara Gill, a reclusive woman of a certain age who long ago isolated herself with her paintings, following the scandalous loss of her beautiful young lover in London.
Lyrical and authentic—and more than a bit shadowy—Captivity is, finally, a tale about physical desire and the hope that even the thinnest faith can offer up to a darkening heart.
"Noyes (Angel and Apostle) is so constrained by, or perhaps so entranced with the true story of the 19th-century mediums Maggie and Kate Fox that she founders in crafting a satisfying novel based upon their lives. The story opens in rural New York in 1848, when teenage Maggie and her younger sister, Kate, claim that rapping sounds in their house emanate from a ghost whose murdered corpse is buried in the basement. It ends a decade later, after the sisters have achieved widespread fame for their sances. The Fox sisters are credited with inspiring the American Spiritualist movement, which grew rapidly for the rest of the century. Noyes includes some of the key figures who spurred the movement's popularity and aptly draws upon the themes of classism and sexism that influenced its leaders with wonderfully lavish period detail. Viewpoints alternate between Maggie's and her friend Clara Gill, an Englishwoman with a tragic past, but Clara's life seems hopeless from the beginning and the reader is kept at a frustrating distance from Maggie's inner thoughts. The legend of the Fox sisters is intriguing; however, Noyes adds little illumination to the nonfiction canon. (June)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Noyes takes the true story of the Fox sisters and the false promise their spiritualist tricks could offer a broken heart, and weaves a story that asks, What is the difference between the real and the unreal when people react precisely the same to each?
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