Friday, October 24, 2008

The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff (a review)

The 19th Wife: A Novel
3.5 out of 5: The 19th Wife is a mixed media experience. Chapters of the supposed memoir of Brigham Young's nineteenth wife alternate with chapters from a murder mystery involving the son of a modern polygamist. Fictional diary excerpts, letters, newspaper articles, Wikipedia entries, and academic papers are added to the mix. Although this quirky compilation feels like a ploy to keep our attention, it's difficult to get annoyed when the experience is so engaging. While reading The 19th Wife, I spent a significant amount of time flipping back and forth through the book, piecing together the various fragments and trying to hold everything together in my mind.

This book is an enjoyable literary puzzle, but it's not without faults. Over 500+ pages, the 19th century historical memoir, written in the style of such memoirs, becomes a bit tedious, and the mystery plot reveals its mediocrity. Additionally, the book's dual narratives seem like two separate books--a historical fiction and a modern mystery--mixed into one volume with little connection between the two. Nevertheless, both stories make for interesting reading, especially when presented in such a unique format.

3 comments:

bermudaonion said...

I liked this book a lot. The only part that got long for me was the part that was from Brigham Young's point of view.

Anna van Gelderen said...

Hm, I already thought this book was not quite my kind of thing and now I am pretty sure it isn't. Thanks for the useful review.

Library Cat said...

This sounds like a rather unique read - thanks for the review.
LibrarysCat