- Hardcover: 336 pages
- Publisher: Ballantine Books; First Edition edition (March 22, 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0345517083
- ISBN-13: 978-0345517081
- Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.2 x 9.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 83 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,335,779 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Four Ms. Bradwells: A Novel Hardcover – March 22, 2011
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Meg Waite Clayton on The Four Ms. Bradwells
I’m the custodian of an embarrassment of pearls, the first of which I bought on my first trip overseas--to Spain one summer during law school--but the rest of which were gifts. One strand, improbably, came from the vice-mayor of Wuxi, China, at the end of an eleven-course dinner honoring my dad. Two are family heirlooms: a strand my dad gave my mom, who gave them to me; and a double strand like the ones on the cover of The Four Ms. Bradwells, which were my husband’s grandmother’s and then his mother’s before coming to me. Like the pearls Ginger inherits from Faith in the novel, my two sets of family pearls are the ones I most enjoy lending to friends, my little sisterhood of the traveling pearls. A close third: my “Paris pearls.” My Paris Pearls are my favorite, only in part for the story that goes with them. Mac’s and my honeymoon itinerary included a last few days in Monte Carlo, but we fell in love with the Italian Lake District before we made it there, and refused to leave. We planned a replacement trip to France for our anniversary, but by then I was pregnant and having complications; the baby’s heart wasn’t beating, and when it started finally, my doctor suggested I stay close to home. The tickets were already bought, though, and with one stepson already studying in Paris, I suggested Mac take his other son in my place. Long story short, there was Mac, with his sons, at a Monte Carlo roulette wheel, betting my birthday in honor of me. He slid his chips over higher odds possibilities to settle, 1,000 francs each, on the 11, 5, and 9. My birthday: 1/1/59. A croupier sent the little ball circling the tilted track. The Clayton boys watched the only way one can watch a roulette wheel: knowing the odds are impossible, but hopeful anyway. The ball, in its final slow circle, bypassed thirty-six numbers to drop into … well, no one remembers where, but it wasn’t the 11, 5, or 9. Undaunted, Mac re-upped. 1,000 francs each. 11. 5. 9. Same circling ball. Same watching. Same hopefulness. The ball, in its final slow circle, again bypassed thirty-six other pockets to drop into … the 11. 1/1. My birthday. Heeding Einstein’s advice, “You cannot beat a roulette table unless you steal money from it,” Mac cashed in his chips and fled to Paris, where he chose a strand of pearls with a looped gold clasp that looks remarkably like the one at Betts’s throat as she’s considered for the Supreme Court. Improbable? All my pearls come with improbable stories. But stories, like pearls, aren’t meant to be examined separate from the whole of their string. They’re meant to settle gently around your neck, to be enjoyed again and again, for moments or hours or days, and loaned to friends, and eventually passed out of one hand into another, to share the love. That’s the hope I have for The Four Ms. Bradwells: that readers will come together to share this story, and pass it along to friends.
Clayton, author of The Wednesday Sisters (2009), has created another tale about a group of female friends that tells the stories of many women. Mia, Lainey, Betts, and Ginger become best friends at law school in 1979, at the cusp of the feminist movement. Now Betts is navigating a Senate hearing to confirm her Supreme Court appointment, and she and her friends have reunited. When a long-buried, dark story from their shared history is dug up, the four escape the media at Ginger's family's home on a remote island, which is also the scene of the controversial event. There the women reflect on their past, their relationships with each other and their mothers, and how societal norms led them to hide shocking sexual abuse. Clayton unfolds the story through flashbacks and present-day narration in each woman's voice. Despite some clunky exposition, this is a stirring and compelling novel about women's changing roles. --Aleksandra Walker
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The reader is taken on this journey as a guest unseen, not involved in events, but provoked nonetheless to evaluate his or her own perceptions of this dichotomy of mind and spirit and, ultimately, of everyone's own truth.
This as a good book, but not for those unwilling to give it the same time to savor as the author so obviously spent time create it.
While Betts is waiting for confirmation of her appointment to the Supreme Court something that she and her friends have always kept quiet about, rears its ugly head. Thirty years ago when the girls were at Ginger's family home one of her family members turns up dead. It's ruled a accident/suicide and the girls all continue to go on with their lives. Now it's coming back to haunt them, especially Betts, and the secrets behind it all could have a devastating effect on the career she's worked so hard to build. Not knowing what else to do the women all flee back to where it all began: Chesapeake Bay, where they begin to unearth many things that they've kept from each other.
What I liked most about the portrayal of these women and their friendship was how real the author made it seem. These women obviously cared deeply for each other but at the same time they could make biting remarks that they knew would cut into the other. What I mean to say is that the relationships between these women didn't seem to good to be true as I find with some other novels about women's friendships. These really seemed like women who have been friends for over thirty years and know each really well - well enough to know that these remarks may hurt but ultimately wouldn't break the friendship.
As for the women in the novel - well I'm not so sure I really connected with any of them on any level but I appreciated the fierceness with which they protected one another. The story also jumped around a little too much and at times I wasn't quite sure whether I was in the past or the present or which of the women the story was focusing on. I did like how the author writes about how certain events in our lives often send us in different directions than we may have taken without them. The mystery of what really happened all those years ago really adds a nice touch to this novel and was what kept me reading.
Even with some of the issues I had reading this I think it's an extremely well written novel with a great premise. While the beginning of the novel had a slow start for me, the last half flew by and I quite enjoyed it. The Four Ms. Bradwells would make an excellent book club choice as there are so many discussion topics within it: mother/daughter relationships, friendships, marriage, children, issues facing women, violence against women, and so much more. I think that a discussion of this novel could be quite lively.