Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
What Alice Knew: A Most Curious Tale of Henry James and Jack the Ripper Paperback – September 1, 2010
|New from||Used from|
Frequently Bought Together
Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought
"the author does a good job of evoking the grimness of everyday life in the Whitechapel slums."
"An imaginative foray into historical fiction... [What Alice Knew] should reel in students of literature... [and] devotees of period pieces and mysteries."
If you buy a new print edition of this book (or purchased one in the past), you can buy the Kindle edition for only $2.99 (Save 70%). Print edition purchase must be sold by Amazon. Learn more.
For thousands of qualifying books, your past, present, and future print-edition purchases now lets you buy the Kindle edition for $2.99 or less. (Textbooks available for $9.99 or less.)
Top Customer Reviews
And of course - Jack the Ripper. Cohen brings 1888 London, England to life with her descriptions of locales and social customs. But it is the dialogue and interactions between the characters that provide such a fresh inventive look at a event that has been covered many times before. The conversations between the siblings is witty, clever and very entertaining. The character of Alice is especially engaging - her self imposed bed rest seems at odds with her quick and intelligent mind, but she is self aware. When we get a glimpse at her vulnerabilities, she becomes all the more authentic. Of all the historical figures, I enjoyed her portrayal the most.
"...that the solution to these horrific crimes requires the three of us. Henry, to observe the social world where I sense the murder lurks and to plumb his friends and acquaintances for gossip. William, to study the physical evidence through his contact with the police and to supply psychological analysis where needed.
And you? William asked in amused wonder. What will you do?
Me? She levelled her intelligent gaze at her brothers. I will review what you gather....and solve the case."
Cohen has presented a 'solution' to the Ripper mystery that is both plausible and unique. But the fun in this book is the journey not the resolution. Highly entertaining.
Sounds exciting, right? Unfortunately, I don't think it was nearly as exciting as it could have been. I admit I haven't read too many of Henry James' books, but The Turn of the Screw is one I read several years ago and still serves to give me a deliciously creepy shiver up and down my back when I think of it. James was a master of the unreliable narrator and wrote amazingly well. In this book, he was portrayed as an insecure, fat alcoholic who just wanted the approval of his elder brother. It's possible that Henry James did feel insecure and maybe he was an alcoholic and quite possibly he wanted his older brother to like him. But there was also keen insight, wittiness and a very real kind of genius in him and I don't think Cohen brought that out at all. Nor does she allow us to see Henry's neuroses develop. She tells us flat out exactly what Henry thinks. For example:
"But William had always treated him dismissively, had viewed his life as frivolous, and had denigrated his writing, if only by failing to read it. These things pained Henry deeply, though he pretended not to care. For more even than social acclaim and fortune, more even than literary immortality, he desired the good opinion of his older brother."
Really, I think this point would have been much better made through less obvious methods, allowing the reader to draw his or her own conclusions about what must have been a very complex relationship between the two brothers. And Cohen gives Alice and William the same treatment- we are told exactly what they think and feel in this heavy-handed manner and do not get the opportunity to draw our own conclusions.
And if that is how the story is just for character development, then I think you can guess that the murder mystery also proceeds at a somewhat clunky manner. In many ways, I found the mystery investigation more interesting. I liked the way the new and budding fields of psychology and photography were used. But in general, this story did not grip me at all in the way one would expect a Victorian era novel featuring a family of famous siblings investigating one of history's most infamous serial killers to do.
The story is told through the eyes of each of the James'. I loved being in London, 1888. The author did a fantastic job of creating that atmosphere; the art, the literature,the theater, and of making real characters come alive in this fictional novel.
I thought the author also nicely portrayed how politics played a role in the search for the killer and how the police looked at psychology as an investigative tool at that time.Though mostly bedridden, one does not feel sorry for Alice, she is very smart and is happy with her life. She definitely knows how to keep her brothers in line as they argue about who Jack's real identity is. The dialogue is sharp and witty and clever.
What Alice Knew is an interesting look at one of history's biggest mysteries, while being very entertaining. I don't know how factual the book actually is, but I don't really care. It kept me engaged and interested.
my rating 4/5