Saturday, August 31, 2013

One Glorious Ambition

Book Review

One Glorious Ambition by Jane Kirkpatrick. 

I stumbled upon this quite by accident. Or chance.  Or happenstance. 

But I picked it up. And I sat down with it in the library. And I started to read while I waited for my other family members to be ready to leave. 

And before any of my family members showed up to announce their readiness to leave, I was already starting chapter three. 

I think I have found a new criteria for whether a book goes home with me from the library.  If I am still reading twenty pages in, then there's a pretty good chance I'll keep reading. 

No guarantees, but a good chance. 

This book passed that first test. 

One Glorious Ambition

And I did take it home. And I did keep reading. 

But at some point, maybe a third of the way in, I slowed. I had a hard time keeping at it. It just started to get awfully depressing. 

But since this is historical fiction, I pressed on.

This is the story of Dorothea Dix, who lobbied for the improvement and care of the indigent insane during the mid-nineteenth century. She remained single and spent her own money visiting and assessing conditions where insane persons were housed and often imprisoned.

She did an enormous amount of work to raise awareness of the treatment of persons relieved of their reason, as they were often referred to then.

This book is reasonably well-written. The author paces the narrative well and provides a probable tone for Dix's life. But the author chooses certain turns of phrase that bother me. Several of these phrases get repeated many times and get quite repetitive.

The overall mood is somber and quite depressing in several places throughout the book. I wonder if Miss Dix was as depressed or as depressing as she is portrayed. There is also an alarming amount of presumption, on Miss Dix's part, over a distant cousin's daughter. I wonder if this is presented accurately.

This book references the importance of Miss Dix's religious beliefs frequently, even with biblical quotes. Again, the reader is left to wonder if this truly represents authentic feeling of the protagonist or whether it is imparted by the interest of the author.

The author does a good job of rooting the story in the social limitations of the time, although she does belabor the role of women a bit much. A woman's place in society, and a single woman at that, was much more so restricted during that time. But I don't appreciate being told again and again and again.

In spite of all of that, this is an interesting read. I walked away feeling I had learned something about someone I had never heard of. That is a good thing.

But I am not sure I am eager to read more stories from this author. It might be interesting to study her style and make an exercise of it. This might lead to some clarity to my ponderings about the story.

But I suspect I have many other things that I will want to read before embarking on such a study.

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