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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Modern Women - Ruth Harris

Title: Modern Women
Author: Ruth Harris

Originally published: 1989
Format: Ebook provided by author for review

From Amazon: 
Beginning with the assassination of John F. Kennedy and ending as the 20th Century moves toward its close, MODERN WOMEN is about the problems faced and progress made by the women—and men—who lived and often thrived during this challenging and tumultuous era.

Lincky Desmond: With beauty, brains and money, she married Mr. Right—only to risk it all for Mr. Wrong.

Elly McGrath: She was loyal and idealistic but when faced with the ultimate betrayal, would she be able to stand up for herself?

Jane Gresh: Bawdy, outrageous and determined not to be ignored, she managed to shock the entire country.

Owen Casals: Handsome, successful, magnetic. He would marry one, betray another and make one of them very, very rich.

Modern Women tells the story of 3 women, starting from the time they were children (but moreover from the time they were young adults).  While this book is not a regular genre for me, I enjoyed it quite a bit.  Born in the 1970s, I didn’t get to witness some of America’s history just prior, and the stories of Jane, Elly, and Lincky gave me a perspective that history books in school just didn’t provide - the woman’s point of view.  It was very interesting to see these women go through the civil rights movement, JFK’s assassination, and just being women in a time when women were undervalued compared to men.

In this book it was a few chapters for one character, and then it would move on to another.  Just as I was getting comfortable with one character, it would switch.  However, this wasn’t annoying or unsettling.  It kept the story fresh.  Yet not so much time would pass in between chapters that you were able to forget about a previous character and her story.  In the beginning there were bits of crossover, but by the end it was a merge of the characters and I totally enjoyed that.

This story opens with the assassination of JFK, where each of the women were and what they were doing.  Much in the way we all remember where we were during 9-11.  We get to peek in on what they were doing, what they were thinking, and how they and the world around them reacted when it happened.  Then the story jumps backwards to give us some history and leads us up to that point and beyond.

At 38% I declared to myself that Lincky is/was my favorite character.  I’m really hoping for a different outcome than what I am expecting of her.  There is a scene with her and her boss, Hank Greene, where he is pounding on the door that is just full of so much emotion between the two…Affair or not, you can’t deny the passion they have for each other.  I could have read a whole book just about these two.  I’m crossing my fingers that their story will take the turn I am hoping for, but time will tell…

I really loved how these women were all so different, raised different, felt different, looked and acted different.  But they are similar.  They wanted to live differently, see differently, and be seen differently.  And that is a major struggle that I feel any woman can relate to.

This is a book I really don’t want to give any spoilers away because if you look at how Lincky’s life turns out, you find out about Jane’s.  And if you look at Jane’s, you know about Elly’s.  You also learn about all the men that come and go in their lives, in whichever capacity they are.  But the characters are very rich and full of life.  You really get the feeling that you get to know them.

This story is an honest look at life.  I found myself getting mad, and rejoicing, worrying that this situation or that wouldn’t work out.  After it was finished, my favorite character remains Lincky.  But even Lincky had faults, every character in this book did.  Some of them were gigantic huge faults.  But you keep living.  You make the best of what you got, you get over it and you move on.  Sometimes a gamble will work, sometimes it won’t.  This book isn’t one success for the characters after another.  They make mistakes.  Some they learn from, some they don’t. 

I would definitely recommend this book to my friends.  Especially love those who are interested in midcentury history, women and their stories, and just life in general.

About Ruth Harris: 
About the author:Ruth Harris is a long-time NYC editor and publisher as well as a New York Times bestselling author. Her novels, originally published by Random House, Simon & Schuster and St. Martin's Press have been translated into 19 languages and sold millions of copies in hardcover and paperback in more than 30 countries. They were selected by the Literary Guild, Book-of-the-Month Club and book clubs around the world. Ruth has reverted all rights and is now making her work—new and previously published—available in e-editions.