Simon & Schuster: 6/2/20
eBook review copy; 416 pages
An Elegant Woman by Martha McPhee is a highly recommended family drama spanning decades.
Although fictional, this draws form parts of McPhee's own family history while following four generation of women as they determining what they are and what they want. The journey follows the family from Montana to Maine, starting in 1910 at a train station in Ohio. Two young girls, Tommy and Katherine, travel with their impulsive mother, Glenna Stewart, while heading to a new life. Tommy continues to take care of her sister while Glenna teaches in a one room school house and Katherine goes to school.
The novel opens with Isadora and her sisters going through their
grandmother's house in New Jersey to clean things out. In the
novel, Isadora is trying to retell her grandmother's life story
while trying to understand her own journey. This is a story of a
woman's journey as reflected in the stories of women in their past
from her family and embellished along the way. Family myths are
explored and shared in this novel about heritage and what that
The writing is very descriptive and the characters, along with
their actions, are complex and complicated. They are all not
understandable or likeable, but depicted as if they want the best
for their children and future generations. The characters are
well-developed. The overwhelming focus is the family stories and
the handing off to the next generation.
The writing is good as it captures the historical period the
characters are going through and their thoughts and reactions. The
question of family legacies and what is passed down to the next
generation is clearly part of the plot. The question about what
the next generation knows about the past generation and their
ancestors and how it all ties together is clearly part of the
theme. The question arises what is memory and what is truth when
telling a story that will be shared to the next generation.
Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Simon & Schuster.