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3.9 out of 5 stars
3.9 out of 5 stars
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on 27 February 2017
This was an interesting read especially as 2 out of 3 brothers in my family arrived on the railroad in Salt Lake city just after this period.
I especially enjoyed the historic parts and would be interested in knowing just how much of the novel is factually correct.
I found the letter supposedly from Brigham interesting as it relates the life of 'gentiles' with the saints bringing in love affairs and prostitution as a comparison to polygamy. I suppose this is where the modern gay relationship comes in?
Overall a good storyline with an unexpected conclusion to the murder.
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on 22 April 2017
This novel gave me a great insight into the history of the Mormons. The double narrative seemed weighted on the historical story which I found both fascinating and shocking, The present day story I found a bit thin though the two narratives did come together very well at the end and the voice of the contemporary protagonist was both realistic and amusing. The historical prose was very authentically written and I had to check that it was indeed completely novel, albeit based on a true story. A clever mix of fact and fiction and a compelling read.
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on 30 April 2017
An enjoyable book with a very thought provoking story and interesting plot
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on 30 May 2017
good informative book
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VINE VOICEon 1 March 2009
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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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. Those expecting a modern-day crime novel will be disappointed as most of the book concerns historical Mormonism and Jordan's efforts to establish himself in a life beyond the sect he was born into.

Nevertheless, this book is still a very enjoyable read and I found it compelling. This book is six hundred pages long and perhaps could have done with a little trimming in places, but as I was enjoying the story and the company of the characters, the length of "The 19th Wife" did not bother me too much.
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I really enjoyed this book which I thought was excellently written. It is set in two time periods - the present day and the nineteenth century. The modern narrative follows Jordan who has been rejected by his family who are a cult derived from Mormanism and follow polygamy (which is no longer acceptable in the mainstream church). His birth mother has been accused of killing her husband - she is the nineteenth wife and that is the main clue to her guilt or otherwise. This narrative is interesting especially in the light of what it shows us about cults and cultures which excludes others. It is not completely negative about the practice of polygamy either but it does show all its flaws and difficulties as well as how it interacts with modern society.

The real strength of the book, however, lies in the historical narrative which is a fictional diary of a real woman - Eliza Anne who is the nineteenth wife of Brigham Young (one of the early Morman leaders) and who publicised the practice in order to try and get it stopped. The diary is full of real historical detail and I think it shows well all the different restrictions placed on women in that society as well as the polygamy theme.

This is not a short book but I found it absolutely gripping. I thought that switches between the two stories worked well especially as each was written in a different voice which was easily distinguishable from the other. The author shares themes between the two narratives but isn't constricted by this and each brings to light different things about the polygamy experience. I did think that the weakest bit of the story was the murder mystery but it acts as a lever for Jordan to come back into the community and to investigate it thus revealing things that the author wants to show the reader.

I was completely hooked on this story. I found the background and religion based bit fascinating and the themes that the author raised were interesting.
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on 28 May 2017
This is a mix of a modern day murder mystery set in a strict Mormon sect and a history of how polygamy came to be accepted and then outlawed in Mormonism. The modern day part is very good with characters you care about but unfortunately it only makes up less than a third of the book. The historical part is very interesting, and at times shocking, but goes on for a bit too long. I also didn’t like how the book includes what purports to be historical extracts but then at the end you’re told they’re all made up.

Overall though, I found it an interesting read.
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on 5 February 2009
The 19th Wife is based around a polygamous Mormon sect. The book is split into two distinctive parts. The first begins in 1875 and follows Ann Eliza Young, the nineteenth wife of Brigham Young, the second Prophet of the Mormon Church. Unsatisfied with his treatment of her, she separates from him, and then leads a crusade to end polygamy in America.

The second is basically a murder mystery. Twenty-year-old Jordan discovers that his father has been murdered, and his mother is accused of shooting him. Jordan was expelled from the Mormon sect at the age of fourteen, when he was discovered holding hands with one of his step-sisters. He returns to Utah to visit his mother in jail, and begins to uncover many secrets within his polygamous family.

Other than the theme of polygamy there was nothing to link the two stories; as the book is a whopping 606 pages long, I think that it could have benefited from being split in two separate books. The writing styles were very different, and I think they will appeal to different people. I much preferred the modern, murder mystery, as it had more pace and intrigue. The character of Jordan was well drawn, and I had lots of empathy for him. The ending was reasonably satisfying, and this section works well as a thriller with a twist.

I found the historical section to be quite dry, and by the end of the book I had lost interest in it. The large number of footnotes, and other historical references were distracting, and it was difficult to know which sections were factually accurate, and which were fiction. The characters became lost in the data, and it became more like a text book than a novel.

Overall, there was a lot of interesting information about life within a polygamous family, but it lacked that special spark.
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on 25 March 2011
This rather sad and poignant tale is the fictionalised account of a true polygamist sect founded in the 1800's, interspersed with the story of a murder of a polygamist husband in 21st Century Utah. Please, don't let that rather blunt summary of mine put you off, because this really is a terrifically well-written book!

As an atheist, it is fair to say that I approached this book with a fair amount of scepticism, so imagine my surprise when I found myself utterly engrossed by it- infact, I spent simply days reading it, unusual for a self-professed `speed-reader.' That's not to say I didn't find it a bit hard going in places, because I did- it was also a bit dry in parts aswell, but needless to say this is a really moving account of a culture and religion very different to what is considered the norm and it really captured my attention and imagination.

As stated, this story is based around two intertwining stories- first of all we have Jordan, the typical American teenager, or not so typical as the case may be. He was thrown out of the Mormon Church for being gay, after growing up in a polygamist sect and being surrounded by lots of sister wives and too many brothers and sisters to count. One day he switches on the news to see his mother, his father's nineteenth wife, has been arrested for his fathers murder and so heads back to where he grew up to try and gain some answers...

In the other narrative, we learn about Ann Eliza Young, a polygamist wife in the 1800's (also `wife 19') who divorced her husband and tried to end the practice of plural marriages, despite the adversity and smear campaign against her.

What I really liked about this novel is that the parts I'd initially thought I would find dull (Ann Eliza's recount) were the aspects I enjoyed the most. Whilst this is a fictionalised account of a true story, it is clear the author has done extensive research and should be lauded for it. Entwined with Young's recaps are stories from other people she knows- including her son- adding further credence to her tale. However, as far as narrators go, her account is always questioned by those who oppose her, giving a feel of unreliability to it, which adds to the intrigue of the situation. Young however, is really given a personality despite events taking place so long ago, which should be commended.

For me, this book loses one star simply because I did feel it to be a bit slow in parts and that Jordan was not really given enough novel-time nor was as well-developed as a character. The ending was also a little bit abrupt for my liking. Nevertheless, for me this is still a brilliant portrayal of an incredibly challenging, controversial subject and for that reason alone is highly recommended. I would really like to see if this could be made into a film- no doubt it would be a success.
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