It is 1887, and Henry Ward Beecher lies dying. Reporters from around the world, eager for one last story about the most lurid scandal of their time, descend on Brooklyn Heights, their presence signaling the beginning of the voracious appetite for fallen celebrities we know so well today.
When Henry Ward Beecher was put on trial for adultery in 1875, the question of his guilt or innocence was ferociously debated. His trial not only split the country, it split apart his family, causing a particularly bitter rift between his sisters, Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom's Cabin, and Isabella Beecher Hooker, an ardent suffragist. Harriet remained loyal to Henry, while Isabella called publicly for him to admit his guilt. What had been a loving, close relationship between two sisters plummeted into bitter blame and hurt.
Harriet and Isabella each had a major role in the social revolutions unfolding around them, but what happened in their hearts when they were forced to face a question of justice much closer to home? Now they struggle: who best served Henry -- the one who was steadfast or the one who demanded honesty?
There are many good reasons to recommend this book but perhaps it's greatest strength is that through the skillful characterization of Harriet and Isabella I could understand why each one felt the way she did. Their actions seem perfectly justified based on the background we are given in their formative years, not only as individuals but as the role they played within the family unit. It's amazing that against the broad background of sweeping historical events, O'Brien's attention to personal and intimate details is what puts the reader exactly where they want to be--immersed in a great story. (Reviewed by Vy Armour).
The Washington Post - Carolyn See
What happens when a family sets itself up as a symbol of moral purity? What happens when that standard is threatened or breached? And—when push comes to shove—where should one's individual loyalties lie…This novel is about our country's ideas and ideals, how we strive, incessantly, to be better than anyone else in the world, and how, sometimes spectacularly, we fail.
Which of my stories was true? That the question remains just makes the telling juicier, and O'Brien delivers just enough history to make a reader feel virtuous while savoring the gossip.
Library Journal - Kathy Piehl
This intriguing novel illuminates the era's political and social struggles as well as the stresses within a celebrity family.
O'Brien provides an interesting new spin on an infamous nineteenth—century scandal...Authentically detailed, this finely wrought historical novel also features plenty of family drama and juicy dish.
This could have easily become a soapy melodrama, but O'Brien smartly blends history about this fascinating family with moral questions that have no easy answers. A winning piece of historical fiction.
While everyone has heard of Uncle Tom's Cabin and can name its famous author, few know the story of the distinguished family from which she came, the remarkable Beecher clan. In Harriet and Isabella, Patricia O'Brien has brought the Beecher family back to life. These passionate abolitionists, ardent preachers, and reformers are also touchingly fallible human beings, whose loves, feuds, and scandals provide O'Brien with more than a family drama, but rather the drama of an American era.
The trial of Henry Ward Beecher and its impact provoked an earthquake in the political life of the United States. Now, Patricia O'Brien has given the Beecher family its due long after the original scandal has faded away.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by Kim Good historical fiction There were several things that surprised me about this book. The first that struck me was the way the author chose to structure her narrative. Its beginning scenes take place as Henry Beecher is dying, but flashbacks soon take the reader back to... Read More
Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe was the best-selling
novel of the 19th century (and the second best-selling book of that century,
following the Bible) and is credited with helping fuel the abolitionist
cause in the 1850's. In the first year after it was published, 300,000
copies of the book were sold in the United States alone. Considering
that the population of the USA was about 23 million in 1850 that would be
equivalent to about 4 million copies being sold in one year today. The
book's impact was so great that when Abraham Lincoln met Stowe at the start
of the American Civil War, Lincoln is often quoted as having declared, "So
this is the little lady who made this big war."
In Harriet and Isabella, Harriet Beecher Stowe attends a dinner
party at the house of their neighbor Samuel Clemens (better known as Mark
Twain) in Hartford Connecticut (1875), where the drink of the evening was
absinthe. Banned in the United...
A Man Called Intrepid author dies aged 89(Dec 03 2013) William Stevenson, a journalist and author who drew on his close ties with intelligence sources to write two best-selling books in the 1970s, A Man Called...