Book Reviews: March 2014

Wondrous Beauty by Carol Berkin, Medusa’s Daughter by Jonathon Scott Fuqua/Steven Parke and His Wife Leaves Him by Stephen Dixon

By John Lewis - March 2014

Reviews of Wondrous Beauty, Medusa’s Daughter and His Wife Leaves Him

Wondrous Beauty by Carol Berkin, Medusa’s Daughter by Jonathon Scott Fuqua/Steven Parke and His Wife Leaves Him by Stephen Dixon

By John Lewis - March 2014

Get Baltimore Daily.

Sign up today and you'll get our latest stories delivered straight to your inbox every weekday afternoon.

Wondrous Beauty

Carol Berkin (Knpof)

Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte—or Betsy, as she was called—was a Baltimore legend and international celebrity, a sort-of turn-of-the-19th-century It Girl. Born to a wealthy local family in 1785, she (as this book’s title suggests) was a beauty, attracting many prospective suitors, including the brother of Napoleon. Betsy wed Jerome Bonaparte and gave birth to his son, infuriating her powerful brother-in-law, who sabotaged the marriage. In some ways, that’s the least interesting part of the story, as Betsy deals with the fallout from this fairy tale gone wrong for the rest of her life. Berkin, the author of such books as Civil War Wives and Revolutionary Mothers, doesn’t see Betsy as a victim but, refreshingly, as a complicated and strong woman far ahead of her time.


Medusa’s Daughter

Jonathon Scott Fuqua/Steven Parke (Red GiantEntertainment)

Fuqua and Parke—local YA author and photographer/illustrator, respectively—have collaborated on this ambitious project, publishing Medusa’s Daughter simultaneously as a novel, graphic novel, and children’s book. That way, they can appeal to all reading levels and perhaps even encourage upward mobility by hooking kids into the story and getting them to migrate to the next level, which is more complex and difficult. Still, the graphic novel is at the heart of this trilogy, with Fuqua’s compelling story about a teenage girl working a carny sideshow after seemingly being abandoned by her parents. Illustrated by Parke’s photographs, rather than drawn panels, it has a cinematic quality that enhances the narrative sweep. It is eerily beautiful and memorable, the sort of thing that could lead readers not just to the other volumes, but also to the Greek myth that informs Fuqua’s story.


His Wife Leaves Him

Stephen Dixon (Fantagraphics Books)

Stephen Dixon tends to get labeled as a writer’s writer. No less an authority than Jonathan Lethem claims to “return again and again to his stories for writerly inspiration,” and many critics seem to believe that Dixon’s uncommon fiction, with its digressions from narrative norms, appeals mostly to fellow scribes. But Dixon, who taught writing at Hopkins for years, is actually a reader’s writer in that his work piques curiosity and then explores various emotions and responses to satisfy it. Here, the curiosity begins with the title, which implies infidelity and impermanence, but the stakes are considerably higher for Dixon’s protagonist, Martin, whose wife dies after a lengthy illness. Martin struggles with that irrevocable reality, examining and reexamining it through a series of internal monologues, detailed recollections, and imagined scenarios that reward careful reading.




You May Also Like


The Chatter

New Book Tackles Tangled History of Baltimore Politics

Johns Hopkins professor emeritus Matthew Crenson examines the role of race and politics.

Arts & Culture

J. Roddy Talks New Album and Baltimore Music Scene

With a new album and local concerts on the horizon, the rock-and-roll singer reflects on his more formidable days in Baltimore.

Arts & Culture

Washington D.C. Arts Guide

From concerts and art exhibits to comedy and theater, we round up the best events to check out in the District.


MaxSpace

Review: American Assassin

Jason Bourne he ain't.

Arts District

Exhibit at Reginald F. Lewis Museum Turns Spotlight On Jacob Lawrence

Presents more than 50 works owned by Maryland collectors

MaxSpace

Review: Good Time

In-your-face film is impressive, if exhausting.

Connect With Us

Most Read


Bygone Baltimore
A look at the city 110 years ago.

Talking Turkey
Otto Turkish Cuisine adds to the dining scene in Federal Hill.

Music Reviews: October 2017
The latest from Outcalls and Us and Us Only.

Fall Events Guide
From pumpkin picking to cozy campfires, here are the best ways to celebrate the season.

Small Print
Local brand Worthy Threads puts the cool back in kids clothing.