Book Review: A White Room by Stephanie Carroll

Saturday, November 16, 2013

A White Room by Stephanie Carroll
(Started: October 13, 2013; Finished: October 21, 2013)

At the close of the Victorian Era, society still expected middle-class women to be “the angels of the house,” even as a select few strived to become something more. In this time of change, Emeline Evans dreamed of becoming a nurse. But when her father dies unexpectedly, Emeline sacrifices her ambitions and rescues her family from destitution by marrying John Dorr, a reserved lawyer who can provide for her family. 
John moves Emeline to the remote Missouri town of Labellum and into an unusual house where her sorrow and uneasiness edge toward madness. Furniture twists and turns before her eyes, people stare out at her from empty rooms, and the house itself conspires against her. The doctor diagnoses hysteria, but the treatment merely reinforces the house’s grip on her mind. 
Emeline only finds solace after pursuing an opportunity to serve the poor as an unlicensed nurse. Yet in order to bring comfort to the needy she must secretly defy her husband, whose employer viciously hunts down and prosecutes unlicensed practitioners. Although women are no longer burned at the stake in 1900, disobedience is a symptom of psychological defect, and hysterical women must be controlled. 
A novel of madness and secrets, A White Room presents a fantastical glimpse into the forgotten cult of domesticity, where one’s own home could become a prison and a woman has to be willing to risk everything to be free. (From Goodreads)
Review: 4 stars
Publication Date: July 03, 2013
Source: Unhinged Books through Netgalley
Shelf: Goodreads, Shelfari
Available on: Amazon
I have always been curious on what does it feel like to have lived in the 1900s. I feel the excitement of being curious to try doing house calls, attending different social gatherings in big gowns and dresses. There's also a fear of how women were being treated back then as compare to the freedom we get to enjoy now but still it will be a whole lot of an experience. Reading A White Room gave me the opportunity to catch a glimpse of its depiction of the 1900s. Not only did it share the social outtakes but also the major issues they were facing that time such as politics, mental disorders and medical conditions.

To begin, it was well-written. Stephanie Carroll described it so beautifully that I was able to picture out the scenes, the clothes, the house--everything. It was so alive that I was able to feel and relate to Emeline as a woman. I also like the idea of symbolism. Emeline went through a lot: she was grieving, her family was bankrupt, she got married for money, she wanted to be a nurse but she can't pursue it due to financial problems. It was like being constrained but there were no chains to stop you. It was a mental battle within herself. Hence, the so called White Room. Aside from it being always associated to a mental ward (sorry for being too blunt; can't seem to think of a proper word), it represents the break down Emeline experienced. She was contained in many ways that she reached the point wherein she couldn't take things anymore. She felt alone and secluded. There was no one to talk to, no one to share the burden with and no one to comfort her. This resulted to what others called as hysteria or madness. She was fighting her own demons. I totally understand her since I would also get crazy if I were in her situation. I can't be my myself, I can't pursue my dreams, no one wants to be associated with me and I just can't be an alpha-female. The only thing I didn't like about it was that it felt dragging at times. I wanted to learn why it was happening to Emeline. I wanted to figure out if the voices she's hearing and the things she's seeing were all true. But the author covered it with a bit of mystery and I appreciate that.

Emeline's transition from being a weak and submissive girl to a very outspoken, determined and brave woman was just inspiring. She was able to figure out things on her own. It's only natural for her to whine here and there but at least she was able to overcome it by fighting the thoughts and negativity with her mind. She proved that her principles and values will not be swayed by politics and social standings. I think it was one of the highlights of the novel and of course her Robin Hood-ish adventures with Lottie.

For the quotes I got this from the book, please visit my Tumblr:
Happy Reading Everyone!

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