Synopses & Reviews
John Sedgwick's acclaimed first two novels, THE DARK HOUSE and THE EDUCATION OF MRS. BEMIS, introduced readers to the rarified, monied enclave of Brahmin Boston, in which privilege and elitism, handed down from one generation to the next, comes at a price. John Sedgwick discovered for himself just how great that price can be when, while writing his second novel, he spiralled into a depression so profound that it nearly resulted in suicide.
This crisis provoked for John an analysis of the source of his malaise, and the realization that, to understand himself, he had to understand where he came from. The Sedgwicks are one of America's oldest families, dating back to 1635. Theodore Sedgwick, a close friend to George Washington and John Adams, played a crucial role in drafting the Bill of Rights; John Sedgwick was among the bestandndash;loved of the Union Generals; Catherine Maria Sedgwick was America's first bestselling female novelist; Ellery Sedgwick owned and edited The Atlantic Monthly magazine for thirty years; Edie Sedgwick, who died of a drug overdose in 1971, was a famous protand#233;gand#233; of Andy Warhol; and Kyra Sedgwick is a wellandndash;respected Hollywood actress with her own hit series, The Closer.
In IN MY BLOOD: SIX GENERATIONS OF MADNESS AND DESIRE, John Sedgwick undertakes what is both a very personal journey of selfandndash;discovery, and a broader retracing of his family's evolution, the trail of which conveys a unique portrait of our own national character.
"In this overwritten family biography cum memoir, novelist Sedgwick (The Education of Mrs. Bemis) traces in great detail multiples generations of his wealthy yet ill-starred family. Beginning with his own near suicide, Sedgwick takes the unrelenting trials and tribulations of his family and tries to tie them to some parallel history of the U.S. It doesn't work. Reaching back to the late 18th century, the family Sedgwick was in the upper tier of New England society. In Sedgwick's telling, Theodore Sedgwick, a prosperous attorney, set the family off to its posh but difficult history by swindling an old Native American woman out of her property in western Massachusetts. Building a grand country home a home that would become both family redoubt and scene of some intergenerational depravities Theodore suffered from what would now be diagnosed as depression. In fact, depression and madness dog the coming generations most famously in the incarnation of Edie Sedgwick, Warhol superstar, world-class drug addict and celebrity suicide. This memoir is not without its pleasures. Sedgwick has a keen eye for detail and a voracious appetite for family lore and history (Catherine Maria Sedgwick was a popular mid-18th-century author; Kyra Sedgwick is an actress). The finely honed prose glides along effortlessly; it just doesn't add up to much." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"The individual stories are fascinating, and together they provide the context for Sedgwick to deconstruct his own demons. With a writer's eye for detail, Sedgwick provides an unflinchingly honest chronicle of an agonizing personal and familial odyssey." Booklist
"The Sedgwick story engages us with the powers and insights of a great novel....[A] modern diary of richly complex people whose stories, and blood, now live within a genuine man of letters." Boston Globe
"John Sedgwick has written a meticulous, responsible and intelligent chronicle....An engrossing, affecting and enlightening inquiry, unique in its perspective on American history and trenchant in its insights into the many facets of inheritance." Chicago Tribune
"Mr. Sedgwick provides a clear, incisive view of a complicated family. He needn't claim that 'the Sedgwick story is the story of America' to make it feel that way." Janet Maslin, New York Times
"Surely one of the most exhaustively-researched attempts to exorcise personal demons." Kirkus REviewS
The top-selling author of The Dark House and The Education of Mrs. Bemis recounts how he suffered from life-threatening levels of depression during the writing of his second book, a circumstance that prompted his investigation into his own family history. 35,000 first printing.
John Sedgwick's widely praised novels introduced readers to the rarified enclave of Brahmin Boston, in which privilege and elitism, handed down from one generation to the next, come at a price. He discovered for himself just how great that price can be when, while writing his second novel, he spiraled into a profound depression that threatened his life.
This crisis provoked him to search for the source of his malaise. Did it begin with him, or did it begin before, possibly even long before, with previous generations whose genes he bore? If so, how had the "family illness," as he came to think of it, shaped their lives, and come to define his? To find the answers, he launched into a full-scale investigation of his family's history one of the oldest, and fully documented in America. It was, at once, a very personal journey of self-discovery, and a broader retracing of his family's evolution, as he pored over the many extraordinary Sedgwicks who had gone before from the protean early Speaker of the House Theodore Sedgwick through to Edie Sedgwick, Andy Warhol's muse and the 1960s "It Girl." Both a brimming family saga and a courageous narrative, the book paints a startlingly candid portrait of a man and an eminent American family.
About the Author
John Sedgwick is the author of the novels The Dark House and The Education of Mrs. Bemis, and contributes regularly to Newsweek, GQ, and The Atlantic, among other publications. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.