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A Bigamist's Daughter by Alice McDermott
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A Bigamist's Daughter (1982)

by Alice McDermott

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As much as I love Alice McDermott, I just didn't care for this book. I didn't know what a vanity publisher was, and I thought the character of Elizabeth seemed very mean to almost every other character. Not to mention it was a boring plot. ( )
  briannad84 | Mar 5, 2013 |
There's something sort of vague going on here. The premise is interesting, but the characters aren't very involving. ( )
  picardyrose | Sep 20, 2012 |
I have had mixed experiences with McDermott's writing. Loved some of her work, indifferent to others. Unfortunately, this novel is in the "indifferent" pile (but at least it is no longer in the TBR pile). I couldn't find an attachment to the main character and actually found her a bit unlikeable. The supporting characters were more interesting. Decided not to finish given the 100 other books awaiting my attention. ( )
  Lcwilson45 | Feb 14, 2010 |
Summary: Elizabeth Connelly feels like a fraud in her job: she is the editor-in-chief at a vanity press, and her main responsibility is to convince would-be authors to sign contracts - and checks - to publish their "masterpieces." Until one day she is approached by Tupper, a young man with a manuscript about a man who maintained multiple wives in multiple towns. His book lacks an ending, and he wants Elizabeth's help in finding one, but the whole thing cuts a little too close to home, for her own father would leave her and her mother alone for long periods... ostensibly working for the government, but Elizabeth has always wondered if he was actually a bigamist. Now she must confront the ghosts of her past - those of her parents' relationship, and those from her own past loves and lovers, for Tupper is not only interested in Elizabeth as an editor, but also as a woman.

Review: Maybe I am just not in the mood for literary fiction right now, but this is the second one in a row that I've read that has just fell flat for me. My main problem with this one, I think, was that there was just nothing driving the story forward. It certainly wasn't plot-driven, as very little actually happened, and pretty much nothing was resolved. But it wasn't really character-driven either, since it's debatable how much Elizabeth grows over the course of the book. Certainly, part of my problem was that I didn't particularly care for Elizabeth. She's one of those literary women who spends so much time (over-)analyzing every emotion, every memory, every situation that she never actually feels or experiences any of them, and for someone who spends so much time thinking about men and women and love, she reads as rather immature. Certainly, this may have been part of McDermott's point, but it made it hard to find anything about the protagonist to latch on to or care about. I wasn't really even able to root for her and Tupper's relationship, in part because it seemed fatally flawed from the outset, and in part because we never really get to know Tupper as anything more than a prod to Elizabeth's further self-analysis. The whole thing also felt a little dated - which, given that this book was published almost thirty years ago, shouldn't come as a huge surprise - in some of its attitudes and revelations about sex and relationships and love and men and women.

I also wasn't particularly crazy about the writing. To be fair, there were some absolutely lovely moments of clear and sharp perception, surrounded with a wealth of eloquent turns of phrase. But in general, the tone of the writing was too distant, too cold, and too removed for me to really ever get into the story. There were also occasional swaps between the third-person present tense that made up most of the book (not my favorite), and an occasional first-person past tense interlude in which Elizabeth discusses some memory from her childhood. The context for the shifts was never explained, and so I found them really distracting, breaking whatever small amount of momentum I'd managed to build up. Finally, my copy had a number of editing errors ("find" for "fine"; "nobel" for "noble", etc.) that seemed doubly out of place in a novel that revolves around an editor. 2.5 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: I'd pass, honestly, unless you're a McDermott completist. This was my first time reading her work, and while I wouldn't be averse to trying one of her later books, there wasn't much here to inspire me to seek them out, either. ( )
  fyrefly98 | Dec 23, 2009 |
A Bigamist's Daughter is Alice McDermott's first book. Even though I read it in less than 24 hours I thought it was wildly imaginative and thought-provoking. Elizabeth is editor-in-chief for a vanity publishing house in Manhattan. while the title sounds impressive she knows she's not fooling herself. In fact, the central theme of A Bigamist's Daughter is all about false impressions. Her father, never home, always leaving for somewhere (or someone?) else, is perceived to be a bigamist. Even in Elizabeth's adult life she is confused about who her father was or what he meant to her. Marriage becomes a mirage as she tries to make sense of relationships both past and present. When Elizabeth meets an author who hasn't finished his book (about a bigamist) the questions become harder and the answers more complicated. ( )
  SeriousGrace | Jun 10, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385333293, Paperback)

Elizabeth Connelly sits in a New York office that looks like a real editor’s, but isn’t quite. Employed at a vanity press, Elizabeth watches the real world—of real struggles, passion, pain, and love—spin around her. Until one day, a young writer comes to her with a novel about a man who loves more than one woman at once. And suddenly Elizabeth will be awakened from her young urban professional slumber—by a man’s real touch, by a real story in search of an ending, by the unraveling of the greatest masquerade of all—in Alice McDermott’s luminous novel of memory, revelation, and desire.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:18:41 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Elizabeth Connelly sits in her office at a New York vanity press watching the world of struggles, passion, pain and love spin around her. Then a young writer comes to her with a novel about a man who loves more than one woman, but which lacks an ending. Suddenly she is awakened from her urban professional slumber.… (more)

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