Thanks to a recommendation from Roxanne Coady, owner of R.J. Julia and reader extraordinaire, I’ve just finished A Short History of Women, by Kate Walbert. What a smart, beautiful book! Like a velvety chocolate dessert that you just want to devour, but choose to savor, this is a novel best appreciated in slow bites.
It follows five generations of women, starting in late-19th century England, and meandering – amidst historical rewinds – to current day New York. The wonder of this novel is Walbert’s ability to subtly weave a common thread – one of desires and anxieties, questions and decisions – that bonds the women across shifting decades and unique voices.
But Walbert doesn’t succeed only in the storytelling; the beauty is in her perfectly chosen words, her scrumptious sentences:
“I take [the note] and step into the livery, sitting back against the broad, hard seat, resting, and as the driver pulls away from the crowds on the piers the notion that I have come so far alone settles like a black crow on my shoulder and squawks.”
“…settles like a black crow on my shoulder and squawks.” Is there not a better description of the intrusion of gut-wrenching loneliness? I cannot stop thinking about this passage.
I wouldn’t call this a light read – there is just too much to absorb for it to be a throwaway beach book. Plus, it can be tricky tracking the different women and dates (but the Table of Contents and Lineage tree upfront do help the reader navigate that!)
This is a must-read for lovers of serious, smart fiction, and one I can’t wait to pass along to my fabulous women friends!