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A short history of women : a novel /

Inspired by a suffragist ancestor who starved herself to promote the integration of Cambridge University, Evie refuses to marry and Dorothy defies a ban on photographing the bodies of her dead Iraq War soldier sons, a choice that embarrasses Dorothy's daughters.

Main Author: Walbert, Kate, 1961-
Format: Book
Language: English
Published: New York : Scribner, 2009
Edition: 1st Scribner hardcover ed.
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Review by Booklist Review

*Starred Review* Walbert's nuanced, layered third novel follows five generations of women. The first, Dorothy Trevor Townsend, is an ardent British suffragette with two children who ends up starving herself for her cause. Her children, Evelyn and Thomas, are separated after her death, though both eventually end up in America. Evelyn becomes a college professor in New York. Thomas names his daughter after his mother. This Dorothy marries a former World War II POW and finds her calling as an activist after the death of her son. Dorothy's two daughters, Caroline and Liz, are baffled by their mother's decision to divorce after decades of marriage. Caroline fixates on their mother's blog, while Liz navigates the tricky world of Manhattan playdates. But who can guess what a woman will do to stake her own freedom, even if, in the end, it costs her her life? Dorothy Barrett asks, pondering her grandmother's plight as well as her own. But is freedom actually more elusive when dying for it has become outdated? With a sharp eye and deft touch, Walbert explores the ways women's priorities and freedoms have evolved even as their yearnings have stayed remarkably constant.--Huntley, Kristine Copyright 2009 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Walbert-2004 National Book Award nominee for Our Kind-offers a beautiful and kaleidoscopic view of the 20th century through the eyes of several generations of women in the Townsend family. The story begins with Dorothy Townsend, a turn-of-the-century British suffragist who dies in a hunger strike. From Dorothy's death, Walbert travels back and forth across time and continents to chronicle other acts of self-assertion by Dorothy's female descendants. Dorothy's daughter, Evelyn, travels to America after WWI to make her name in the world of science-and escape from her mother's infamy. Decades later, her niece, also named Dorothy, has a late-life crisis and gets arrested in 2003 for taking photos of an off-limits military base in Delaware. Dorothy's daughters, meanwhile, struggle to find meaning in their modern bourgeois urban existences. The novel takes in historical events from the social upheaval of pre-WWI Britain to VJ day in New York City, a feminist conscious-raising in the '70s and the Internet age. The lives of these women reveal that although oppression of women has grown more subtle, Dorothy's self-sacrifice reverberates through generations. Walbert's look at the 20th century and the Townsend family is perfectly calibrated, intricately structured and gripping from page one. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review

In her third novel, following the National Book Award nominee Our Kind (2004), Walbert (www.katewalbert.com) explores the long-range impact of the women's movement through five generations of the Townsend family. The story opens in 1915 as British suffragette Dorothy Townsend starves herself for the cause and continues into the 21st century as two sisters who have it all-career, education, and children-feel constantly that they are shortchanging at least one of those aspects of their lives. Though this audio lacks the helpful lineage the print edition provides, the multivoice narration more than compensates as Nicola Barber, Ruth Moore, Kathleen McInerney, Eliza Foss, and Paula Parker help listeners to distinguish among the many characters, through all their interwoven stories. An excellent choice for book discussion groups. [The Scribner hc, a New York Times Best Book of 2009, was described as being "gripping, intense, and powerful," LJ 1/09.-Ed.]-Nann Blaine Hilyard, Zion-Benton P.L., IL (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review

Five generations of willful, restless women struggle to find an identity beyond that of wife and mother. Dorothy Trevor Townsend bequeathes one heck of a legacy when she dies at age 34 in 1914. The British suffragette starves herself to death as an act of civil disobedience, leaving behind two fatherless children and a married lover. Her act is doubly shocking, occurring as it does during the carnage of World War I. Dorothy's son Thomas ends up with family friends in California, becomes a musician and dies young of alcoholism. Daughter Evelyn endures wartime deprivations at boarding school before finding her way to America as well. She becomes a well-known chemistry professor at Barnard, eschewing traditional attachments and family life. Thomas's daughter, Dorothy Townsend Barrett, takes a different route, marrying and producing three children, only to realize in her 70s that she has always been miserable. So she protests the Iraq war, divorces her devoted husband Charles and starts a blog, to the horror of her responsible eldest daughter Caroline. With an empty nest and a divorce of her own, Caroline is stunned to recognize the role that fear has played in her life. Caroline's sister Liz, like the others, has talent and brains, but late motherhood and a busy, privileged life in Manhattan have made her question what it all means. When Liz was a child, she slipped into her mother's purse a verse she'd written that contained the line "I am a hollow bone." It resonates throughout the lives of all these women: "It's as if I echo, or rather, feel in myself an absence," says Dorothy Barrett. "I feel as if I've forgotten something, as if there's a question I forgot to answer." Walbert (Our Kind, 2004, etc.) is careful to give equal weight to their challenges through different eras. The male characters are not as fully fleshed out as they could be, but Charles' longing for the wife he never really had is quite moving. Daring and devastating: 20th-century history made personal. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.