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


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

Arts & Culture

Richard Chizmar Co-Authored Book with Stephen King

The Bel Air writer discusses 30 years of writing horror and suspense stories.

Arts District

Baker Artist Awards Recognizes Six Area Artists

Pedal steel guitarist Susan Alcorn wins largest, $40,000 prize

MaxSpace

Review: Baywatch

It's not safe to go into these waters.

Food & Drink

You Are Here

Scenes from the Bel-Loc Diner and UnPub 7 at the Baltimore Convention Center.

The Chatter

Cloud Computing Races to Glory at 142nd Preakness Stakes

Horse owned by Baltimore native eliminates possibility of a Triple Crown victory.

Connect With Us

Most Read


Fixer Upper
We’ve devised a wish list of some realistic (and some unrealistic) improvements to Pimlico Race Course.

Sip Tips: May 2017
Celebrate the season of dirt under the fingernails with these organically grown libations.

Tiny Charges
NICU nurse Amy McArdle cares for the hospital’s littlest patients.

Summer Concert Guide
From local bands to national names, here are 30 sunset shows you can’t miss.

You Are Here
Scenes from the Bel-Loc Diner and UnPub 7 at the Baltimore Convention Center.