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10 June 2010

Book Review: Captivity by Deborah Noyes


Title: Captivity
Author: Deborah Noyes
Publisher: Unbridled Books
Publication Date: June 1, 2010
Hardcover: 352 pages
ISBN: 978-1936071630
Genre: Historical Fiction

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About the Book:

This masterful historical novel by Deborah Noyes, the lauded author of Angel & Apostle, The Ghosts of Kerfol, and Encyclopedia of the End (starred PW) is two stories:
The first centers upon the strange, true tale of the Fox Sisters, the enigmatic family of young women who, in upstate New York in 1848, proclaimed that they could converse with the dead. Doing so, they unwittingly (but artfully) gave birth to a religious movement that touched two continents: the American Spiritualists. Their followers included the famous and the rich, and their effect on American spirituality lasted a full generation. Still, there are echoes. The Fox Sisters’ is a story of ambition and playfulness, of illusion and fear, of indulgence, guilt and finally self-destruction.
The second story in Captivity is about loss and grief. It is the evocative tale of the bright promise that the Fox Sisters offer up to the skeptical Clara Gill, a reclusive woman of a certain age who long ago isolated herself with her paintings, following the scandalous loss of her beautiful young lover in London.
Lyrical and authentic—and more than a bit shadowy—Captivity is, finally, a tale about physical desire and the hope that even the thinnest faith can offer up to a darkening heart.


My Review:

Captivity by Deborah Noyes is a stroke of literary genius and written unlike any other novel I have read, which captures and at the same time commands the reader's attention to even the smallest of details. A highly philosophical novel, Captivity must be savoured in small quantities and thought about before the reader can proceed further with the novel. Noyes' writing captures the era, the sites, sounds, and beliefs of a time long past. In Captivity, based on the historical Fox sisters and the fictionalized Clara Gill and with brilliant creative license, Noyes' characters are written in such a manner that they become quite real to the reader. The story takes place in 1840s New York, toggles back and forth between the Fox Sisters and Clara Gill's life, at times intersecting, while other times Clara's narrative takes the reader back to England when she still went out and was relatively carefree and in love. The Fox sisters, Leah, Maggie and Kate have a gift, referred to as knocking, that allows them to commune with the dead. Naturally, due to the times, there were many who believed but many who did not believe and felt at they very least they were committing fraud. The Fox sisters go through a series of committees and public hearings and are found innocent of all counts of fraud, yet each time the public demands yet another committee. All the while the Fox Sisters, whether knowing it or not are beginning a new phenomenon in America. Meanwhile, a scandal occurred in England forcing Clara and her father to flee into relative obscurity, settling in New York. Clara, indulged by her father is so reclusive she rarely even leaves the safety of her room. What secret binds Clara and her father so close, yet so distant? What cruelty has occurred in Clara's past to cause a once enthusiastic woman to choose to seclude herself within her darkened room with only her memories, her seashells, and her sketches? When Maggie is sent to help in the Gill residence, is it a kindred soul she sees in Clara Gill, if not, how else can one explain Maggie's repeated attempts to draw Clara Gill out, literally and figuratively? While it may appear as though I have given the entirety of the novel away, rest assured I have not even begun to touch the depth and breadth of this extraordinary novel. Noyes has created a deeply profound and at times quite philosophical novel, which lends itself to contemplation and would make for a brilliant discussion group novel. Captivity is in a class all its own. The distinctive narratives and relationships are masterfully crafted and are seamlessly interwoven until the story reads as a singular novel rather than several tributaries, which make up the whole. My words cannot do justice to this work of literary genius and it is my fervent hope that Deborah Noyes is working on yet her next literary masterpiece.

About the Author:

Angel and Apostle is Deborah Noyes’ first novel. Her short fiction and reviews have appeared in The Threepenny Review, The Boston Sunday Globe, Seventeen, The Washington Post Book World, The Chicago Sun-Times, Stories, The Miami Herald, San Francisco Chronicle, The Bloomsbury Review, Boston Review, and other publications. She has also written and edited numerous books for children and young adults, including the award-winning teen anthology Gothic! Ten Original Dark Tales.

I received a complimentary copy of Captivity by Deborah Noyes from Unbridled Books. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of aforementioned novel.

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1 comment:

MarthaE said...

This sounds rather unique. Thanks for a good review.