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Ask Alice: A Novel Hardcover – April 13, 2010
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“Taylor effectively captures the sense of social upheaval that characterized the 1920s.” (The Spectator)
“D. J. Taylor is remarkably under-appreciated as a novelist.” (Daily Telegraph)
“A clever, stylish entertainment with dark undercurrents.... The book has all the makings of Victorian high drama—a slew of colorful characters, vivid and varied scenes, precipitous changes in fortune, and inescapable revelations of long-buried secrets.” (Atlantic Monthly)
“Taylor traverses turn-of-the-20th-century Kansas and the sparkling social circles of Jazz Age London in this swirl of provocative prose and cleverly conceived characters.... As Alice's life begins to unravel and the stories begin to connect, the narrative takes on the urgency of a finely crafted mystery. The novel is absorbing, wonderfully atmospheric, and loaded with intrigue; it's a wonder Taylor isn't better known.” (Publishers Weekly)
“A page-turner of the highest order. A powerful contribution to the changing practice of historical fiction.” (Philippa Gregory - The Times [London])
About the Author
Top Customer Reviews
Taylor's main character, Alice, is drawn with far less emotional depth and drama than any Boleyn girl, however. She takes steps throughout life's journey with a cool detachment, her inner personality ulitmately elusive and unknowable. In the rare moments we see Alice emotionally naked, she is memorable and identifiable, but then she is forced to close up like a clam.
I believe the author has created this cypher as a metaphor for mysterious manner in which the "weaker sex" was portrayed in Edwardian society (equating women to flowers, etc.) Alice is fettered by the constricts of the era and high society's rules of etiquette, even when she is directly threatened.
This book is densely packed with information; if you choose to read it you will enhance your knowledge and understanding of the historical age it portrays. Do not expect to fully know Alice, the eponymous heroine, who matter-of-factly takes the reader on an enjoyable and satisfying ride.
It is this which makes me puzzle the accolades which have been heaped on this writer. Something, an incisiveness, an economy, is missing.
It isn't that I expect a furiously driving plot - I very much like books where the mystery and depth unfold, and where detail is put in that gives a three dimensionality - but there should always be some sort of superobjective which keeps the author in focus, and avoids the flabby.
And so I found the problem, again, with Ask Alice. A promising story of how a young girl in Kansas in the early part of the twentieth century, from a pretty ruinous start, climbs out of poverty into high society in England, and is later connected with her past again. No spoilers - the dust jacket of the book explains this. I really enjoyed Taylor's evocations of time and place, social observations, the teeming cast of characters, but somehow, instead of all this gathering itself up and ravelling and unravelling with momentum, it begins, after a while, to plod.
There is the frustrating feeling that if only Taylor could vigorously prune his creations, a better story teller would be revealed
Most Recent Customer Reviews
D. J. Taylor’s splendid novel, Ask Alice, is set in the Midwest and England. In the early twentieth century, we first meet the heroine, Alice, traveling on a train through Kansas... Read morePublished 23 months ago by Nobody
I love stories that are set at the turn of the last century, and this book had many plot points that should have given it a place among my favorites. Read morePublished on November 15, 2010 by Kesal