3 out of 4 stars
Share This Review
In many activism tales, adventure and brutality from the powers-that-be is a sure deal. Not only does Naked Truth, by Carrie Hayes, not disappoint in this regard, but it additionally has a sprinkle of Spiritualism that accentuates the fun and ‘ouch’ moments.
The plot follows two renegade sisters, Tennessee Claflin and Victoria Woodhull, in their rise from obscurity and Spiritualism to Victoria running for the highest office in the land. Never mind that at the time, women were not even allowed to vote!
In this female-restrictive era, the two sisters' spunky and radical disposition leads them to break every law on societal female submission and moral standing. Not only are they scandalized, but backlash and persecution quickly follow suit when the two start causing political ripples.
That notwithstanding, the two women are not badass, perfect leaders. With the media hounding them, the plot elucidates the women’s vulnerabilities as they grapple with love, family life, and their ambitions. In essence, we see them ‘stripped naked’ in both their highest and lowest moments.
The key themes in the story are challenging status quo, daring to be different, politics, corruption and persecution for holding onto one’s unpopular ideals. Tennie and Victoria were enigmas. Sometimes I lauded them. Other times I could only shake my head in disbelief at their flawed thinking and actions. There were times I laughed at their escapades, and times I almost cried at their predicaments.
Even though there isn't not much-recorded history about these great women’s day to day activities or those of the key characters surrounding them, the author painstakingly uses newspaper articles to ground the plot, while audaciously filling any gaps with imaginative splendor. This historical fiction novel can undoubtedly pass for a biography.
The 326-page, five-part novel is set in the male-dominated 19th century. Events in the two women’s lives and times are chronologically arranged from May 1868. The narration is in the third-person perspective using various characters’ points of view. While these shifting points of view give a well-rounded approach to events, it inadvertently drags the plot since there were many characters. Every so often I got confused and had to flip back to re-acquaint myself with a character. This proved to be a very distracting affair.
While I enjoyed the women’s revolutionary approach to politics, business and other vital issues of the day, I must admit I was a little bogged down with the pace of the plot. If you are looking for a thrilling page-turner, then don’t reach out for this one. If, however, history makes you tick, I harbor no doubt that you will enjoy the book.
This is because the author adeptly relives recognized historical events from unusual angles. For example, her explanation of the origin of Black Friday was quite different from what is common in the media today. The limited medical knowledge of the era leads to some cringe-worthy solutions. To cap it, the author provides a list of reference resources for further reading.
I didn’t grasp why Spiritualism in the plot was based on Christianity, since my understanding is that Christianity does not condone Spiritualism. This detail may irk devout Christians unless one takes it as a fallacy during the era.
All in all, the biggest letdown for me was the book's loosely knit relationships leading to cosmetic interactions. Some characters, for example, would so fall out with each other to the point of fist-fighting. In the very next section, however, they would carry on as if nothing untoward ever transpired. On other occasions, a minor disagreement would turn into an insurmountable mountain. These fleeting relationships prevented the book from making a lasting impression in my mind.
For these reasons, I believe the book falls short of a perfect rating. I, therefore, rate it 3 out of 4 stars, while reiterating that the author did a superb job in editing it. I only came across a handful of minor grammatical errors, which did not interfere with the flow of the story. Moreover, there was no obscenity or explicit sexual scenes.
This book, therefore, is one any lover of historical fiction, feminist movements, or biographies would enjoy. Book clubs can also do justice to the multiple layers of this book. Furthermore, the author suggests some discussion topics.
View: on Bookshelves | on Amazon