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Joan Acocella in The New Yorker

reviews

Together with the book’s profound treatment of the spiritual ills born of the Enlightenment, this wonderful character is Barton’s main gift to us.

– Joan Acocella, New Yorker Magazine on Brookland

But, if the bridge doesn’t succeed in creating the hoped-for unity, the book does. Brookland itself is a kind of bridge, not just in its great span, from 1772 to 1823, and in its lattice of solid little parts””what the Winships eat for dinner (sweet-potato stew), how many dresses Prue has (one, brown)””but in its balance of opposing forces, above all, the forces within Prue’s personality. Brookland is certainly a feminist novel, a child of Little Women and The Song of the Lark, but, unlike the protagonists of those books, Prue is not a “natural.” She isn’t pretty. She’s a worrywart; she’s full of envy and remorse. She loves her family passionately, but she would trade them all for the bridge. The thing she loves best is her own mind, but she doesn’t trust that, either. She is not a “good-models” feminist heroine, nor is she one of the bad-girl heroines of second-stage feminism. She is a thorny, struggling soul. Together with the book’s profound treatment of the spiritual ills born of the Enlightenment, this wonderful character is Barton’s main gift to us.

on Brookland

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