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A Short History of Women

by

A Short History of Women Cover

 

Awards

The Rooster 2010 Morning News Tournament of Books Nominee

Review-A-Day

"Was the suffragette's suicide foolish — or, worse, futile? Walbert doesn't say. Rather, she leaves us with a potent and lingering image in the final chapter, set in 1985: the embittered Evelyn, now an eighty-four-year-old retired chemistry professor, recalling her mother's emaciated body, 'crippled as mine is now, her spine curved into a singular question.'" Rebecca Donner, bookforum.com (read the entire bookforum.com review)

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

National Book Award finalist Kate Walbert's A Short History of Women is a profoundly moving portrayal of the complicated legacies of mothers and daughters, chronicling five generations of women from the close of the nineteenth century through the early years of the twenty-first.

The novel opens in England in 1914 at the deathbed of Dorothy Townsend, a suffragette who starves herself for the cause. Her choice echoes in the stories of her descendants interwoven throughout: a brilliant daughter who tries to escape the burden of her mother's infamy by immigrating to America just after World War I to begin a career in science; a niece who chooses a conventional path — marriage, children, suburban domesticity — only to find herself disillusioned with her husband of fifty years and engaged in heartbreaking and futile antiwar protests; a great-granddaughter who wryly articulates the free-floating anxiety of the times while getting drunk on a children's playdate in post-9/11 Manhattan. In a kaleidoscope of voices and with a richness of imagery, emotion, and wit, Walbert portrays the ways in which successive generations of women have responded to what the Victorians called The Woman Question.

As she did in her critically acclaimed The Gardens of Kyoto and Our Kind, Walbert induces a state in which the past seems to hang effortlessly amid the present (The New York Times). A Short History of Women is her most ambitious novel, a thought-provoking and vividly original narrative that crisscrosses a century to reflect the tides of time and the ways in which the lives of our great-grandmothers resonate in our own.

Review:

"Walbert — 2004 National Book Award nominee for Our Kind — offers a beautiful and kaleidoscopic view of the 20th century through the eyes of several generations of women in the Townsend family. The story begins with Dorothy Townsend, a turn-of-the-century British suffragist who dies in a hunger strike. From Dorothy's death, Walbert travels back and forth across time and continents to chronicle other acts of self-assertion by Dorothy's female descendants. Dorothy's daughter, Evelyn, travels to America after WWI to make her name in the world of science — and escape from her mother's infamy. Decades later, her niece, also named Dorothy, has a late-life crisis and gets arrested in 2003 for taking photos of an off-limits military base in Delaware. Dorothy's daughters, meanwhile, struggle to find meaning in their modern bourgeois urban existences. The novel takes in historical events from the social upheaval of pre-WWI Britain to VJ day in New York City, a feminist conscious-raising in the '70s and the Internet age. The lives of these women reveal that although oppression of women has grown more subtle, Dorothy's self-sacrifice reverberates through generations. Walbert's look at the 20th century and the Townsend family is perfectly calibrated, intricately structured and gripping from page one. (June)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Review:

Kate Walbert announces the high stakes of her fine new novel in the first line: "Mum starved herself for suffrage." It is a startling opening. Dorothy Townsend dies on a hunger strike with a clear moral purpose but also leaves behind two orphans and a mother who says that "it was just like (her) to take a cause too far."

"A Short History of Women," spanning more than a century, follows... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review)

Synopsis:

From a lecture delivered to suffragettes in Victorian England to a playdate on Manhattan's Upper West Side, this provocative work chronicles four generations of women, their aspirations, the limits imposed on them, and the sometimes startling choices they make in the world.

About the Author

Kate Walbert is the author of Where She Went and The Gardens of Kyoto. She teaches writing at Yale University and lives in New York City with her family.

Product Details

ISBN:
9781416594987
Subtitle:
A Novel
Author:
Walbert, Kate
Publisher:
Scribner
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Women
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Copyright:
Publication Date:
20090616
Binding:
Hardback
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
256
Dimensions:
9 x 6 in

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Related Subjects

Featured Titles » NYT Ten Best Books » 2009
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z

A Short History of Women Used Hardcover
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Product details 256 pages Scribner Book Company - English 9781416594987 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Walbert — 2004 National Book Award nominee for Our Kind — offers a beautiful and kaleidoscopic view of the 20th century through the eyes of several generations of women in the Townsend family. The story begins with Dorothy Townsend, a turn-of-the-century British suffragist who dies in a hunger strike. From Dorothy's death, Walbert travels back and forth across time and continents to chronicle other acts of self-assertion by Dorothy's female descendants. Dorothy's daughter, Evelyn, travels to America after WWI to make her name in the world of science — and escape from her mother's infamy. Decades later, her niece, also named Dorothy, has a late-life crisis and gets arrested in 2003 for taking photos of an off-limits military base in Delaware. Dorothy's daughters, meanwhile, struggle to find meaning in their modern bourgeois urban existences. The novel takes in historical events from the social upheaval of pre-WWI Britain to VJ day in New York City, a feminist conscious-raising in the '70s and the Internet age. The lives of these women reveal that although oppression of women has grown more subtle, Dorothy's self-sacrifice reverberates through generations. Walbert's look at the 20th century and the Townsend family is perfectly calibrated, intricately structured and gripping from page one. (June)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review A Day" by , "Was the suffragette's suicide foolish — or, worse, futile? Walbert doesn't say. Rather, she leaves us with a potent and lingering image in the final chapter, set in 1985: the embittered Evelyn, now an eighty-four-year-old retired chemistry professor, recalling her mother's emaciated body, 'crippled as mine is now, her spine curved into a singular question.'" (read the entire bookforum.com review)
"Synopsis" by , From a lecture delivered to suffragettes in Victorian England to a playdate on Manhattan's Upper West Side, this provocative work chronicles four generations of women, their aspirations, the limits imposed on them, and the sometimes startling choices they make in the world.
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