Title: A White Room
Author: Stephanie Carroll
Format: Paperback and eBook
Publisher: Unhinged Books
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Genre: Historical Fiction / Woman’s Literature
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About the Book:
At the close of the Victorian Era, society still expected middle-class women to be “the angels of the house,” even as a select few strived to become something more. In this time of change, Emeline Evans dreamed of becoming a nurse. But when her father dies unexpectedly, Emeline sacrifices her ambitions and rescues her family from destitution by marrying John Dorr, a reserved lawyer who can provide for her family.
John moves Emeline to the remote Missouri town of Labellum and into an unusual house where her sorrow and uneasiness edge toward madness. Furniture twists and turns before her eyes, people stare out at her from empty rooms, and the house itself conspires against her. The doctor diagnoses hysteria, but the treatment merely reinforces the house’s grip on her mind.
Emeline only finds solace after pursuing an opportunity to serve the poor as an unlicensed nurse. Yet in order to bring comfort to the needy she must secretly defy her husband, whose employer viciously hunts down and prosecutes unlicensed practitioners. Although women are no longer burned at the stake in 1900, disobedience is a symptom of psychological defect, and hysterical women must be controlled.
A novel of madness and secrets, A White Room presents a fantastical glimpse into the forgotten cult of domesticity, where one’s own home could become a prison and a woman has to be willing to risk everything to be free.
Be sure to see Stephanie’s guest post – Historical Accuracy in Historical Fiction Here
Read on for My Review, About the Author and details on the blog tour for A White Room
Initially I was drawn to the historical fiction aspects of the story, and a woman’s struggle to fit within the confines of societal expectations and her own desires. What emerges is a story so rich in both imagery and personal struggle, layered with dramatic events, and a lead character that is both empathetic and deeply flawed.
Carroll created a heroine that will tug at your heartstrings, with her desires for more than a ‘conventional’ life in the early1900’s, for a woman of an upper-middle class household. College educated Emeline is hoping to go to nursing school and live an independent life; until the death of her father reveals greatly reduced circumstances and the fear of penury for her family. A promise to ‘take care’ of her family leads her into a situation of sacrifice: she barters her singlehood for marriage and security for her family.
I loved Emeline’s use of the metaphor of A White Room: the expectations of society, responsibilities and convention all conspire to keep her contained within an all-white room, where color and personal choice are an anathema and may bring the walls down to crush her. Far from being bright and light, there was an ominous sense of a loss of self, and a lack of color in the room and her life corresponded to the darkness and shadows brought on by her own depression. Her retreat into imagination was understandable, and supremely well documented, the instant belief that she was in the grips of hysterical madness, and the continual threat of that diagnosis of madness being used to contain and constrain her was both true to the time and an interesting plot device. Where Emeline had an interesting core of strength of character: she was a woman of her time, and the threat of discovery and containment were frightening to her. What could have been used to stall the story and find her forays into her own imaginings becoming a permanent state of affairs, she found that the needs of others overrode her own concerns and responsibilities, and she moves forward despite the potential for discovery and disgrace.
The author mentions her influences in literature, from Charlotte Perkins Gilman to Frances Hodgson Burnett and Emily Bronte: and I found that there were elements that captured the feel of those author’s books in a very positive sense. The otherworldliness of Burnett came forward in the parlor and the woods, lushly imagined spaces with features that could change from gloriously quirky to malevolent in moments. The inner turmoil and imaginative inner thoughts of Emmaline that were similar to those of Bronte heroine Jane Eyre, and the obsession so well noted in Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper. All three of these elements worked together in a very unique way to detail and define the world that Emeline saw, and provided the reader with easy imagery and a sense of familiarity in the unfamiliar world of the early 1900’s.
This was one of those books that was satisfying on many levels: historically, the plight of Emeline, the friendships and ultimately the relationships and personal growth. Stephanie Carroll has crafted a novel with so many things to enjoy for readers of all persuasions.
I received a copy of the book from the publisher via NetGalley. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
About the Author:
As a reporter and community editor, Stephanie Carroll earned first place awards from the National Newspaper Association and from the Nevada Press Association. Stephanie holds degrees in history and social science. She graduated summa cum laude from California State University, Fresno.
Her dark and magical writing is inspired by the classic authors Charlotte Perkins Gilman (The Yellow Wallpaper), Frances Hodgson Burnett (The Secret Garden), and Emily Bronte (Wuthering Heights).
Stephanie blogs and writes fiction in California, where her husband is stationed with the U.S. Navy. Her website is www.stephaniecarroll.net.
A White Room is her debut novel.
Find Stephanie Carroll
Follow the blog tour for a chance to win a free and copy and to learn more About A White Room and author Stephanie Carroll!
(Or attend an in-person reading. Readings will be held in California and Nevada. Visit www.stephaniecarroll.net for details.)
A White Room Blog Tour Dates
Weds, June 19 – Oh, For the Hook of a Book: Book Review and Giveaway (ebook)|
Thurs, June 20 – Hazel the Witch: Interview and Giveaway (Print)
Sat, June 22 – Reading in Ecuador: Guest Post: How to Write Suspenseful Fiction including A White Room excerpt
Thurs, June 27 – Momma Bears Book Blog: Giveaway and Guest Post: The Story Behind Emeline’s Mental Distress
Fri, June 28 – The Bookish Dame: Interview and Giveaway
Tues, July 2 – I am Indeed: Guest Post: Historical Accuracy in Historical Fiction
Mon, July 8 – Bookfari: Interview and Giveaway
Tues, July 9 – Hazel the Witch: Guest Post – How to Write the Inner Thoughts of a Crazy Person
Weds, July 10 – Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers: Review and Giveaway
Fri, July 12 – Lost to Books: Guest Post TBA and Giveaway
Mon, July 15 – A Writer of History: Guest Post: Writing an Era – Where to Begin?
Weds, July 17 – Michelle’s Romantic Tangle: Interview
Thurs, July 18 – Oh, For the Hook of a Book: Interview
Tues, July 23 – Unabridged Chick: Review and Giveaway
Thurs July 25 – Ravings and Ramblings: Review and Interview
Tues July 30 – Reading the Past: Giveaway and Guest Post: Writing and Historical Thought – They Didn’t Think Like We Did 100 Years Ago
Sat, Aug. 3 – History and Women: Giveaway and Guest Post: Victorian Women and the Mystery of Sex