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Publisher's Summary

San Francisco in the 1890s is a town of contradictions. Lizzie Hayes, a docile, middle-aged spinster, is praised for her volunteer work with the Ladies' Relief and Protection Society Home.

When the wealthy but ill-reputed Mary Ellen Pleasant shows up with an orphan in tow, Lizzie is drawn to them both. For it is the beautiful Mrs. Pleasant, object of suspicion because of her rumoured voodoo practise, who holds the key to freeing Lizzie's rebellious nature.

©2001 Karen Joy Fowler (P)2015 W F Howes Ltd

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  • Wras
  • 23-07-2016

An interesting woman that may have existed.


The description of San Francisco in 1890 is fascinating and so is all the information on the period, but I found the plot to be disappointing as so much of the book is based on rumors and innuendo that it feels slippery and forced to stay together.

Ellen Pleasant.is the main character in the soul of the book, but she also is the mistery almost and amalgamation of a mithical woman; black, white, married, rich, poor, servant, mistres, murderer all of this are posibilities that Lizzie Hayes, a spinster is created to try and descover but in the end it all fades in the fog of time.

It is not a bad book but the fascination with the mystery of Ellen Pleasant.is never enough of a coherent plot, more of a device to explore and interesting character that time and the period she lived in have render but a rumor a phantasm that never becomes solid or alive..

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