From Publishers Weekly
In this scattered but well-meaning biography of the heiress to the massive Winchester arms fortune, Ignoffo's attempts to undercut rumors of eccentric behavior become bogged down in historical minutiae. Born in 1839 in New Haven, Conn., Sarah Lockwood Pardee entered the Winchester dynasty in 1862 when she wed William Wirt Winchester, the son of the founder of the legendary Winchester Repeating Arms Company. The Winchester rifle became the preferred gun of the expanding American frontier, and Sarah moved westward herself four years after William's death in 1881, using her substantial wealth to settle in a then undeveloped California. Rumors of her spiritualist leanings and reclusive tendencies began after Sarah purchased a large ranch in the Santa Clara Valley, christening it Llanada Villa, which became the titular labyrinth. When completed, it was over three stories high, with rooms and hallways tacked on at random. Sarah purchased several more properties surrounding Llanada and near San Francisco, all while remaining aloof from neighbors, primarily due to debilitating rheumatoid arthritis. While Sarah Winchester's intriguing life has been largely overlooked by historians, Ignoffo does her subject few favors with a lack of organization and frequent tangents. (Dec.)
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“Captive of the Labyrinth
is an excellent read. Ignoffo finally sets the record straight on one of the most fascinating and misunderstood women in California history. A real page-turner!” --Gary F. Kurtz, California State Library Director of Special Collections
“Written by a local historian and considered the first full-length biography of the wealthy recluse who built and lived in what is now the renowned tourist attraction opposite Santana Row, Captive of the Labyrinth: Sarah L. Winchester, Heiress to the Rifle Fortune
is definitely not 'authorized'. . .Among the fascinating information in Ignoffo's book is her contention that the 1906 earthquake that toppled a seven-story tower and damaged two floors of the San Jose mansion explains away some of the mysteries. . . like sealed up chimneys and stairs that once went somewhere. ” --San Jose Mercury News
“Each page is packed with information pertaining to Winchester's upbringing and family and not only does the biography tell Winchester's story, but it touches on that of her relatives and associates. rdquo; --Santa Clara Weekly