An Elegant Woman: A Novel

Front Cover
Simon and Schuster, Jun 2, 2020 - Fiction - 416 pages
For fans of Mary Beth Keane and Jennifer Egan, this powerful, moving multigenerational saga from National Book Award finalist Martha McPhee—ten years in the making—explores one family’s story against the sweep of 20th century American history.

Drawn from the author’s own family history, An Elegant Woman is a story of discovery and reinvention, following four generations of women in one American family. As Isadora, a novelist, and two of her sisters sift through the artifacts of their forebears’ lives, trying to decide what to salvage and what to toss, the narrative shifts to a winter day in 1910 at a train station in Ohio. Two girls wait in the winter cold with their mother—the mercurial Glenna Stewart—to depart for a new life in the West. As Glenna campaigns in Montana for women’s suffrage and teaches in one-room schoolhouses, Tommy takes care of her little sister, Katherine: trapping animals, begging, keeping house, cooking, while Katherine goes to school. When Katherine graduates, Tommy makes a decision that will change the course of both of their lives.

A profound meditation on memory, history, and legacy, An Elegant Woman follows one woman over the course of the 20th century, taking the reader from a drought-stricken farm in Montana to a yellow Victorian in Maine; from the halls of a psychiatric hospital in London to a wedding gown fitting at Bergdorf Goodman; from a house in small town Ohio to a family reunion at a sweltering New Jersey pig roast. Framed by Isadora’s efforts to retell her grandmother’s journey—and understand her own—the novel is an evocative exploration of the stories we tell ourselves, and what we leave out.
 

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - Beamis12 - LibraryThing

3. 5 The year is 1910 and Montana is calling for workers, new opportunities to those who take up the challenge. Glenna, leaves her husband and takes her two young daughters, to the new land where she ... Read full review

An Elegant Woman

User Review  - Publishers Weekly

In McPhee’s ambitious if uneven latest, a novelist recounts the twists and turns of her grandmother’s life. While Isadora helps her sisters and mother clean out her grandmother’s house in New Jersey ... Read full review

Contents

Section 1
3
Section 2
17
Section 3
19
Section 4
55
Section 5
67
Section 6
163
Section 7
209
Section 8
211
Section 12
261
Section 13
267
Section 14
269
Section 15
296
Section 16
297
Section 17
329
Section 18
375
Section 19
404

Section 9
238
Section 10
239
Section 11
259
Section 20
405
Section 21
407
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About the author (2020)

Martha McPhee is the author of the novels An Elegant Woman, Bright Angel Time, Gorgeous Lies, L’America, and Dear Money. She is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts grant and a fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation. Gorgeous Lies was a finalist for the National Book Award. She teaches fiction at Hofstra University and lives in New York City.

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