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Pinkerton's Sister by Peter Rushforth

Pinkerton's Sister (2005)

by Peter Rushforth

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Showing 4 of 4
I abandoned the effort at page 88/729, and consider myself lucky to have graduated to such a point, where I don't feel guilty about stopping, and will not be forcing myself to slog through 600-odd more pages of this.
If you like listening to the feverish imaginings of someone who is very erudite and nursing a lot of hatred, you may enjoy this book. The writing is perhaps very fine, and the scholarly background is probably even better, but I didn't enjoy _reading_ it, so I'm giving it a pass. ( )
  MargaretPinardAuthor | May 23, 2015 |
A book about books. Couldn't get into it... though I didn't give it much of a chance. ( )
  bollix | Apr 12, 2008 |
Pinkerton's sister is about Alice, a 35 year old, single woman, who is regarded as a madwoman and who has a stammer. She was born in 1868, the year in which the first part of Little Women had been published. Alice's life is lived inside her book-lined imagination. Her thoughts mix fact, fantasy, literature, past and present together. She tells us of the attempts that are made to cure her of her imagination and her spirit by using electrotherapy, hot and cold bath treatments, massage, hypnotism and cloud-reading. Books and authors that Alice mentions are, amongst others, The Princess and the Goblin, A Child's Garden of Verses, Tennyson, Jane Austen, the Brontës, the Brownings, Hardy, and Poe, The Picture of Dorian Gray, The Hound of the Baskervilles, The Woman in White, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Goblin Market and Alice in Wonderland. She makes literary connections between everyone around her by using her vast knowledge of books. This book is a fantastic achievement and a must for lovers of books about books. ( )
  kehs | Feb 20, 2008 |
Wow. What an amazing book. It's not an easy read, but well worth it. What a great commentary of society, women, children, and sex at the turn of the century! ( )
  maryintexas39 | Jul 2, 2006 |
Showing 4 of 4
What we read is an expansive, subtle polyphony of her sensations, memories, imaginings, and most especially her readings—the plays of Shakespeare, lines and lines from other poets, and those Gothic novels that mirror her own situation.
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...a little cloud out of the sea, like a man's hand.

I Kings, Chapter XVIII, Verse xliv
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0156031868, Paperback)

Within the bounds of realism, a more fantastic or original novel than Peter Rushforth's Pinkerton's Sister would be hard to imagine. Alice Pinkerton is a New York spinster of 1905, raised to join the middle-class matrons in her respectable, status-conscious neighborhood, but cursed from childhood with the gift of seeing through humbug. Her ecstatic immersion in English literature has only made things worse, so that by the age of 30, she is too clever, quirky, and dark-mustached to be anything but an object of scorn in the eyes of her peers. When not submitting to her psychologist's latest enthusiasms (she suffers his passing fancies for phrenology, massage, hot water immersion, cold water immersion, dream interpretation, cloud reading, and hypnosis) Alice occupies herself with word games and arabesques, indulging in lengthy fantasies of gender-reversal, spontaneous ballet, and other embarrassments for the doctors, clergymen, merchants, and matrons who patrol the social boundaries that keep bluestockings like Alice locked away as "madwomen," rather than writing and selling books.

There's very little in the way of plot in Rushforth's second novel (the first, Kindergarten, appeared to acclaim about 25 years ago), except for the piecemeal recollection of her childhood friendship with a black servant named Annie. Not much older than Alice herself, Annie was a worthy playmate who tried to protect Alice from her father and the never-spelled-out abuses he and a friend inflicted on them both. Alice's hatred of her father burns even hotter than her love of Annie, and she remains convinced he was responsible for Annie¹s disappearance and probable death. These passions--and a handful of other childhood memories--hold together an otherwise loose, disorderly sequence of satirical jokes and verbal flourishes and sometimes overly long frolics. Don't expect the rustling skirts and repressed emotions of a Merchant Ivory film. Pinkerton's Sister reads like an absinthe-fueled, all-night collaboration between Edith Wharton, Angela Carter, and Monty Python. --Regina Marler

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:08:15 -0400)

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A sprawling stream-of-conscious novel set primarily in the head of Alice Pinkerton at the dawn of the twentieth century. Alice isn't yet ready for the new age; she's a vestige of Victorian times, a "madwoman" living on the third floor (not in the attic, she insists) of her family's home. "No one was as close to her as words on a page," Alice muses, and indeed, she relates more to characters from the novels of George Eliot, Charlotte Bronte, and Charles Reade than to the people who surround her, especially the thoroughly modern socialite Mrs. Albert Comstock, who represents everything Alice hates. Alice's doctor, who seeks to cure her of her "malady," proclaims, "Imagination is an impediment to progress." For Alice, there's no more chilling sentiment.… (more)

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