Quiet Dell: Book summary and reviews of Quiet Dell by Jayne Anne Phillips

Quiet Dell
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  • Published in USA  Oct 2013
    464 pages
    Genre: Historical Fiction

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Book Summary

In Chicago in 1931, Asta Eicher, mother of three, is lonely and despairing, pressed for money after the sudden death of her husband. She begins to receive seductive letters from a chivalrous, elegant man named Harry Powers, who promises to cherish and protect her, ultimately to marry her and to care for her and her children. Weeks later, all four Eichers are dead.

Emily Thornhill, one of the few women journalists in the Chicago press, becomes deeply invested in understanding what happened to this beautiful family, particularly to the youngest child, Annabel, an enchanting girl with a precocious imagination and sense of magic. Bold and intrepid, Emily allies herself with a banker who is wracked by guilt for not saving Asta. Emily goes to West Virginia to cover the murder trial and to investigate the story herself, accompanied by a charming and unconventional photographer who is equally drawn to the case.

Driven by secrets of their own, the heroic characters in this magnificent tale will stop at nothing to ensure that Powers is convicted. Mesmerizing and deeply moving, Quiet Dell is a tragedy, a love story, and a tour de force of obsession and imagination from one of America's most celebrated writers.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Sprawling... For every tedious page of the murder trial, mired in the story-lethal muck of facts, there is one of soaring lyricism." - Publishers Weekly

"Starred Review. Phillips' prose is as haunting as the questions she raises about the natures of sin, evil and grace." - Kirkus

"Starred Review. Phillips... presents an astonishingly effective novel based on a true crime that took place in her native West Virginia in the early 1930s, material that has been brewing in her consciousness for years." - Booklist

"In a brilliant fusion of fact and fiction, Jayne Anne Phillips has written the novel of the year. It's the story of a serial killer's crimes and capture, yes, but it's also a compulsively readable story of how one brave woman faces up to acts of terrible violence in order to create something good and strong in the aftermath." - Stephen King

"Quiet Dell has all the elements of a murder mystery, but its emotional scope is larger and more complex...It offers a portrait of rural America in a time of crisis and dramatizes the lives of a number of characters who are fascinating and memorable." - Colm Tóibín

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Reader Reviews

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Diane S.

Quiet Dell
Based on a true case that had haunted the author for decades, Quiet Dell is the story of the murders and investigation that took place during the 1930's, of a serial killer that preyed on vulnerable women. A subject that is not typical for this author, but something that she felt she needed to write.

I remember stories, told by my Aunt about the Lonely Hearts, widows who would write to men, a match up pen pal sort of thing, that has been replaced by computers today. Widows left in dire circumstances due to the depression and had very little recourse. Loved the black and white pictures that accompanied this novel as well as many of the details. My problem with this book, is that the main character is a woman, a journalist and so much of what she does and experiences just does not ring true. Not sure that a woman would have had the freedom at the time, or been so accepted by the men in professional capacities as is related here. Also her love affair with the bank manager just seemed awkward as did some of the dialogue.

That said, this is still a very good novel, a look back in history and a book that will find readers of many genres. How much harder it was to piece things together back then when one so relied on witnesses, paper trails in the truest sense, and just pure investigation and foot work. Though this killer had many different aliases, he was just pure evil.

My favorite parts where when the young girl Annabel is mentioned, the writing flows, becomes poetic and I felt she was a great favorite of the author. A bit of fancy.

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Author Information

Jayne Anne Phillips Author Biography

Jayne Anne Phillips is the author of Lark and Termite, Motherkind, Shelter, Machine Dreams and Quiet Dell, and the widely anthologized collections of stories, Fast Lanes and Black Tickets. A National Book Award and National Book Critic's Circle Award finalist, Phillips is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, two National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships, a Bunting Fellowship, the Sue Kaufman Prize, and an Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. She is currently Professor of English and Director of the MFA Program at Rutgers-Newark, the State University of New Jersey, where she established The Writers At Newark Reading Series. Information, essays and text source photographs on her fiction can be viewed at JayneAnnePhillips.com. She ...

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