An Elegant Woman: A Novel

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Simon and Schuster, Jun 2, 2020 - Fiction - 416 pages
“A portrait of self-creation in the vein of F. Scott Fitzgerald”,” (The Wall Street Journal) An Elegant Woman is “a rich exploration of legacy and memory” (Entertainment Weekly) that follows four generations of women against the sweep of 20th century American history.

Drawn from the author’s own family history, this powerful, moving multigenerational saga from National Book Award finalist Martha McPhee masterfully explores the stories we tell ourselves, and what we leave out.

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 story 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.

Told “with an easy grace many historical novels lack” (Los Angeles Times), An Elegant Woman follows one woman over the course of the 20th century, taking us from a drought-stricken Montana farm 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 “sharp, precise, and, yes, elegant” (The Boston Globe) in its gorgeous depiction of one hundred years in a family’s history.
 

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User Review  - sprainedbrain - LibraryThing

I love a good multi-generational saga, so I was very excited to get an ARC of this book and even more pleased when it turned out to be a brilliant one. I was immediately drawn in to this story: from ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - brangwinn - LibraryThing

While going through her grandmother’s treasures novelist Isadora discovers the stories behind all these treasures is really myth. The reality of this upper-class family is entirely different. Looking ... 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 13
267
Section 14
269
Section 15
296
Section 16
297
Section 17
329
Section 18
375
Section 19
404
Section 20
405

Section 9
238
Section 10
239
Section 11
259
Section 12
261
Section 21
406
Section 22
407
Copyright

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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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