Review: The Unruly Passions of Eugenie R.

Thank you to Thomas Allen & Son LTD publishers for sending us this advanced copy of The Unruly Passions of Eugenie R. (Publication date is March 27, 2012) Based on the description of the book, and this glorious cover I was very intrigued and quite anxious to read it. The book cover, the actual feel of the book, and the pages are all so sultry and rich. The language is very rich as well. And because of that it took me a fair amount of time to get in to it. At times I will say I was a little lost amid all the words, the overdescriptions and what I felt to be fragmented thoughts?

For instance:

My back ached and I put my hand there, feeling the desperate undulation of these moods; the hunger of the man for what he wanted; his furious need varnished over by an adherence to a strict set of principles, a labyrinth for which there was no Plan de Paris. His was a ranging, ferocious appetite and at the same time, its despair.

I didn’t understand and I laboured for some time trying to grasp what DeSanti was trying to convey. However, I perservered, and once giving it a chance and adapting to her style of writing, I found myself lost in Eugenie’s saga. A woman wronged and misled, finding herself abandoned in Paris and having to make her way in the only manner in which women in Paris could without a man or marriage, (These parts reminded me of The Virgin Cure by Ami McKay.) and then fighting to keep her child. She eventually did have to abandon Berthe and spent some time searching to get her back.

And then about half way through, my interest in Eugenie began to wane as her plight became tedious and well, dull. I just lost all connection to her. When I first realized Eugenie’s lover was not planning on appearing in Paris with his promised excitement and luxurious lifestyle, I almost thought that Eugenie could have fled Paris then and its ridiculous and restrictive regulations for young women in that time period. Once you discovered you were abandoned, would you not find some small countryside to escape to or some place that would look upon a young woman down on her luck more favourably? Perhaps that is my naivite speaking. But to continue to be used by the few men and women you surrounded yourself with and to consistently return to prostitution after the birth of your daughter, I just felt there could have been other ways of surviving or other avenues to explore. Eugenie just wasn’t a heroine I felt connected to, or exhilirated by.

The ending was somewhat disappointing as well and again, just didn’t build in to a satisfying finish. I had such high expectations for this novel and it just didn’t meet them. I’m saddened, but it happens sometimes I suppose.

Synopsis of The Unruly Passions of Eugenie R: Love and war converge in this lush, epic story of a young woman’s struggle with life and love during and after the Second Empire (1860–1871), an era that was absinthe-soaked, fueled by railway money and prostitution, and transformed by cataclysmic social upheaval.   Eugénie R., born in France’s foie gras country, follows the man she loves to Paris, but soon finds herself marooned, pregnant, and penniless. She gives birth to a daughter she is forced to abandon and spends the next ten years fighting to get her back. An outcast, Eugénie takes to the streets, navigating her way up from ruin and charting the treacherous waters of sexual commerce. Along the way she falls in love with an artist, a woman, and a revolutionary. The capital, the gleaming center of art and civilization in Europe, is enjoying its final years of wanton prosperity before galloping headlong into the Franco-Prussian War. For Eugénie it is a conflicted landscape—grisly, evocative, and addictive. As the gates of the city close against the advancing army, Eugénie must make a decision between past and present—between the people she loves most.   The Unruly Passions of Eugénie R. is a testament to the power of love, friendship, and the art of self-creation.

Check out Carole DeSanti’s website, it’s as sultry and beautiful as the cover and with pictures of Eugenie and Paris here:

Eugenie R also has her own Facebook page here:

We are anxious to review the other books Thomas Allen sent to us (thank you! thank you!), and are to be published in April/May so we will read closer to those dates. All 3 sound amazing, from a peek behind North Korea’s Iron Curtain (All Women in Springtime), to a prep school (The Year of the Gadfly), to a woman on trial for madness during the Civil War (Blue Asylum). Cannot wait to get to these!! Don’t they sound perfect?


Audiobook Review: The Devil’s Feather

This has been described as a departure in writing of her usual mystery style, and yes, The Devil’s Feather is not your usual whodunit, or anything like Ms. Walters usual style. Rather this is a gritty and compelling social and political commentary on the degradation of women worldwide. An intense sociological and psychological thriller. Sound a tad intense? Yes. Yes, it is.

It certainly had me gripping the steering wheel in frustration and rage.

The Devil’s Feather has no mysterious element to it at all, as it follows Connie Burns, a correspondent for Reuters in Sierra Leone and Iraq, on a mission to bring to light the sadistical and savage beatings and killings of prostitutes and the man she is convinced is responsible for these crimes. The man with a number of aliases travels to these war-torn countries and disfigures, abuses, shames and murders women and blames terrorist activity in his wake.

He knows Connie Burns is on to him and captures her for 3 days where he assaults, terrorizes, rapes her using viscious dogs to assist. He then releases her, shaming her to go in to hiding, but also in the end, empowering her to continue her crusade to bring him to justice.

When he tracks her location in an English countryside where she is seeking solace and healing, the considerably tense thriller aspect of the book takes over. But also the outrageous and frustrating feelings you have, as I’m certain is what Ms. Walter’s intended. After surviving a brutal ambush, the police come in and question, humiliate and accuse Connie Burns of murder and inexcusable covering up of evidence against this malicious, sadistic pyschopath. Ah, such is the way of the world isn’t it? Pardon me Mam, but you used too much force, why did you attack him with an ax? Why did you tend to the dying dog instead of calling for an ambulance for this man? Your behaviour is inexcusable. Never mind this man is responsible for brutal attacks against dozens of women in every country he sets foot in, is responsible for holding Connie hostage for 3 days and filming the humiliation and torture. Shame shame Connie Burns! How dare you?! We are talking about a man’s life here!

Here characterizations are spot on as always and it is very different than what I’ve normally read of Minette Walters, but it got my attention! There is also a little side-story with the inhabitants of the village and home she is renting in the countryside that is decent as well, and helps to curb the tension of the root of the story. And…never, ever underestimate the power and strength of women. 3 stars.

Review: The Virgin Cure

I was in love with it from the very beginning. I also burned through it in just a matter of days.

McKay has written another incredible,  unique and riveting story, just as wonderful, maybe even more than, The Birth House.

The Virgin Cure portrays the plight of Moth, or really, many (and there were many, many) of the young girls living in the slums of 1871 Manhattan (blech, shudder) with such intensity it was so hard to put it down. I was riveted to the pages reading about Moth’s horrible suffering. “I am Moth, my father ran off when I was three years old, my mother sold me into service when I was twelve.”

The book made me think I was reading a stuffed and over-filled journal, with pages and clippings falling out, bits of history slipped in between the pages and little notations along the side written in pencil…There were so many times, and from the very beginning, I wanted to take a pencil or place a sticky note next to the phrases written, as they were so beautifully written. I know that sounds so cliche, but it’s so true. “But Mama knew as well as I did that a corset was the surest way to turn a girl into a woman before her time. It brings the body into a desirable shape, taking a girl’s breath away causing her to dream of whirling around a dance floor or riding a galloping horse – her only chances to fly.” (page 50)

“The most valuable thing a girl possessed was hidden between her legs, waiting to be sold to the highest bidder. It was never a question of yes or no. It was simply a matter of which man would have you first. ” (and really? the men were that digustingly disturbingly gross in 1870s!? Disturbing!) A sidenote: In 1871, under common law, the age of consent was ten years of age. (In Delaware it was seven.) The young girls of New York understood (for better or for worse) the value of declaring themselves to be of a palatable age to gentlemen. Twelve sounded for too young to the ears of any man with a conscience or heart. Sixteen, even when uttered by honest lips, inevitably brought the girl’s purity into question. Of the years left between, fifteen was declared to be the ideal number.

Overall, I really liked how it was written in what seemed to me to be like a journal  format, with notations/letters from Sadie, the women and children’s doctor throughout. I will miss Sadie’s generosity and care of Moth, and I will be haunted by Moth. Definitely a 4.5 star read for me.

This book reminded me very much of Memoirs of a Geisha. A great deal actually. Therefore, you may also wish to read: