From Publishers Weekly
One of the most intriguing marriages in American history is explored in an absorbing, if somewhat improbable, first novel by Washington Post columnist Conroy. Henry and Clover Adams were a prominent couple in Washington's Gilded Age society, until her death by potassium cyanide poisoning--generally considered a suicide--shocked the nation's elite. Henry's attempts to obliterate his wife's memory by destroying her letters, diaries and photographs, and his total exclusion of her from his famed autobiography, The Education of Henry Adams , only served to intensify the mystery of why one of the most intelligent, accomplished and renowned women of her time (she is often cited as the inspiration for Henry James's Daisy Miller and Portrait of a Lady ) chose to end her life. Using the device of a secret journal, Conroy recreates the five weeks prior to Clover's death in December 1885. Through Clover's acutely observant eye we gain descriptions of White House dinners and afternoon tea parties, as well as reflections on the frustrating limits imposed on women in a highly ritualized society. Clover's voice is authentic without being anachronistic, and the expertly researched plot is quite compelling until the book's final pages, when Conroy deviates from historical explanations of Clover's death. The sensational ending, while skillfully paced and undeniably original, verges on melodrama, reminding the reader that only in fiction may the tangle of human events be explained so ingenuously.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
In this fictional account of Clover Adams's unfortunate marriage to Henry, a descendant of both Adams presidents, longtime Washington Post columnist Conroy painstakingly describes the social life and daily rituals of the select La Fayette Square residents. Henry, who is cold-hearted and vain, forces Clover to conceal her literary and artistic talents and to demonstrate servile deference to his every word and deed. When Clover rebels, Henry swiftly retaliates, and events soon lead to Clover's mysterious demise. To the author's credit, she conducted in-depth historical research to produce this hybrid tale of fact and fiction. Indeed, Clover's death makes a fine topic for intrigue. However, the reader is shortchanged by the author's tedious descriptions of social customs. Failure to develop the intriguing plot earlier in the novel detracts from what should have been an exciting work of historical fiction.- Mary El len Elsbernd, Northern Kentucky Univ. Lib., Highland Heights
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.