Resonant of Margaret Mitchell's Scarlett O'Hara and Edith Wharton's Undine Spragg, Phillip Margulies's Belle Cora is a fascinating, scene-stealing protagonist, and his eponymous debut novel, a sweeping historical epic. Opening in 1820s New York, the story spans decades and states, as the narrative follows Belle's maturation from naive daughter of religious zealots to sought-after madam of San Francisco's foremost brothel.
Born into a family of austere New England Puritans, Belle learns early the value of self-reliance. When her beloved mother dies of tuberculosis, she and her brother Louis are removed to upstate New York to live with hardscrabble, devoutly religious relatives. The austerity of their earlier childhood is replaced by borderline abuse, as Belle and Louis's aunt and uncle try to transform them from privileged city dwellers to hardworking, devout farm people. The efforts ...
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