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The 19th Wife Paperback – 2 Jan 2009


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Product details

  • Paperback: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Black Swan (2 Jan. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0552774987
  • ISBN-13: 978-0552774987
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 3.8 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (125 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 23,476 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

David Ebershoff, born in 1969 in California, is the author of four books of fiction, including The Danish Girl, The Rose City, and Pasadena. His most recent novel is the international bestseller, The 19th Wife. He has won a number of awards, including the Rosenthal Foundation Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Lambda Literary Award, the Ferro-Grumley Award for excellence in gay and lesbian literature. His books have been translated into eighteen languages to critical acclaim. Two of his novels are being adapted for film and television. Ebershoff has taught creative writing at New York University and Princeton and currently teaches in the graduate writing program at Columbia University. He is an editor-at-large at Random House and lives in New York City.

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Review

"The multiplicity of perspectives serves to broaden Ebershoff's depiction not only of polygamy, but also of the people whose lives it informs. And this gives his novel a rare sense of moral urgency" (The New York Times Book Review)

"A marvellous evocation of pioneer life... But his sympathy is with Eliza Young and other women trapped in what the Mormons termed 'celestial marriages'" (Daily Mail)

"Beautifully written... genuinely enthralling" (Literary Review)

"Engrossing... vivid... packed with historical illumination, unforgettable characters... the greatest triumph is the way all this material illuminates the larger landscape of faith" (Washington Post)

"Intelligent, compelling, with several decent twists" (Guardian)

Review

Gripping and beautifully written.

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

38 of 38 people found the following review helpful By unlikely_heroine VINE VOICE on 15 May 2009
Format: Paperback
This novel has received mixed reviews but I thoroughly enjoyed it and found "The 19th Wife" to be two diverting stories in one. In modern-day Utah, Jordan Scott, a young teenager excommunicated from a heretical Mormon sect that still engages in polygamy, tries to unravel the mystery of his father's murder in order to free his mother, who has been accused of the crime. Interspersed in this story is a fictionalised account of the life of Eliza Ann Young, the "19th wife" of the nineteenth century Mormon leader, Brigham Young. Eliza Ann was notable for speaking out against polygamy and her efforts are part of the reason the Mormons eventually abandoned the practice.

For me, the historical sections were the real "meat" of this book, fascinating in their detail and very well-executed. Eliza Ann Young's voice comes across very strongly and her struggle for independence, autonomy and dignity is highly readable. I found the modern strand of the story, curiously, to be less convincing and "real"; Jordan is not the living, breathing character that Eliza Ann is, although he is likeable enough. The contrast between the skill with which the historical sections are written, and the slightly clumsy narrative of Jordan, almost suggested to me that Ebershoff wanted us to think that Jordan was something of an unreliable narrator - at various places it seemed as if we were being spun a yarn by this young man rather than being told what really happened.

It is also true that the murder mystery is less involved and less satisfyingly resolved than it might have been, which seems to be a result of the "Jordan" sections being somewhat underwritten.
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255 of 269 people found the following review helpful By C. Ball TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 22 Jan. 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is somewhat misleading. From the cover and the blurb on the back you'd think it was a murder mystery set within a Mormon sect, which in a way it is, but it's much more than that. It's set in two times periods: the modern day, in which Jordan, a young gay man excommunicated from a fanatical Mormon sect that still practices polygamy, attempts to solve the murder of his father, a murder that his mother, the 19th wife, is accused of committing; and the mid 19th century, where it follows the life of Ann Eliza Young, a real life figure who was the 19th wife of Brigham Young and sister of the man who founded the First breakaway sect that Jordan and his mother are a part of, her divorce from Brigham Young and her crusade against the practice of polygamy. It's much more about the destructiveness of polygamy than it is a murder mystery, and it's well worth reading.
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By LittleReader VINE VOICE on 1 Mar. 2009
Format: Paperback
I think this novel could have been vastly improved by being about 200 pages shorter.
It started off interesting and addictive - though I initially found the references to Mormons, Latter Day Saints and Firsts a little confusing, it was soon much clearer in my mind. There is no doubt that DE has a fluid, readable writing style and a flair for full and honest characterisation - that much I certainly did like.

Narrated by Mormon's, Ann Eliza Young, the 19th wife of the Prophet Brigham Young and various members of her family during the 19th Century and Jordan a Century later - an excommunicated homosexual trying to piece together the murder of his father while his mother awaits trial for it, the story is brimming over with Historical fact.

However, by the middle third of the book, I was flagging. It just went on and on and on far too long to hold my attention. I wish DE had been more succint in his tale as I know I would have savoured it. Instead, I was speed-reading in order to move on to something else.
A huge shame...
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By DubaiReader VINE VOICE on 13 May 2009
Format: Paperback
I agree with reviewers who felt this would have been better as two books.
The historical detail was fascinating, if a bit dry, while the modern day murder mystery, though more readable, was a little contrived and coincidental. Reading the two together was extremely confusing, perhaps a change of font might have helped and losing 150 pages would have been good too!
Although not a particularly flowing read, this did produce a fascinating evening of discussion for my book group.

The historical part of the book followed the life of Ann Eliza Young, the 19th wife of Brigham Young at the end of the nineteenth century. Brigham Young was the prophet of the Mormon church at the time, before they split with the Latter Day Saints over the issue of polygamy. Ann Eliza was insrumental in outlawing polygamy after she left the church and went on a crusade around the States, preaching against the institution.

The fictional, modern day section contained another 19th wife who was jailed for the murder of her husband. Her son, Jordan is convinced of her innocence and tries to uncover the truth within the church from which he had been ejected for the minor misdemenour of holding his step-sister's hand. In fact his eviction was caused by one of the basic problems of polygamy - too many men; many teenage males found themselves abandoned as a result.

The book put me in mind of A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews which also took place in a religious cult.
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