Sunday, November 1, 2009

November 2009

Sue chose "The Alchemist's Daughter" by Katharine McMahon and we gave it 3 1/2 stars.  We lunched at Mimi's Cafe in Murray.

"There are long-held secrets at the manor house in Buckinghamshire, England, where Emilie Selden has been raised in near isolation by her father. A student of Isaac Newton, John Selden believes he can turn his daughter into a brilliant natural philosopher and alchemist. Secluded in their ancient house, with only two servants for company, he fills Emilie with knowledge and records her progress obsessively. In the spring of 1725, father and daughter begin their most daring alchemical experiment to date - they will attempt to breathe life into dead matter. But their work is interrupted by the arrival of two strangers: one a researcher, the other a dazzling young merchant. During the course of a sultry August, while her father is away, Emilie experiences the passion of first love. Listening to her heart rather than her head, she makes a choice. Banished to London and plunged headlong into a society that is both glamorous and ruthless, Emilie discovers that for all her extraordinary education she has no insight into the workings of the human heart. When she tries to return to the world of books and study, she instead unravels a shocking secret that sets her on her true journey to enlightenment."

Sue says: This was a feminist book set in the early 18th century. The title character is raised to be a scientist with a functioning brain, but is so sheltered that she doesn't realize that in her society, women are chattel who belong to their husbands. So when she marries and learns this sad truth, she has to use her intelligence to remake herself into an independent woman. It is painful and costly, but the benefits to her and those she influences are great. There are also sub-themes of the slave trade and the dearth of good medicine for women in childbirth, along with interesting details about science and alchemy. 

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