3 out of 4 stars
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Edmond Sebastian Rochurst’s entry into the world was as spectacular as any birth could be. His mother went into labor in the family chapel, amidst the strains of organists and singers. She saw it as a prophetic sign that the young prodigy was born under very unusual circumstances. At the age of four, his gift for music was evident. Only a few years later, he was giving piano recitals in the most exclusive venues in the world. He was the sole heir to his father’s vast railroad empire, and his extraordinary talent was the talk of the town. It seemed like Edmond’s future couldn’t get any brighter or more promising.
Unfortunately, there was a dark side to Edmond. As he matured, his preference for an alternative lifestyle, a thing unspoken of in those times, was a source of embarrassment to his family. Not only this, but his own despicable character began to manifest itself. He found unusual delight in terrorizing members of his household, especially his long-suffering wife and their mentally impaired daughter. What’s more, his unholy alliance with the immoral priest, Levi, took his wickedness to a different level altogether. Edmond stopped short of nothing to get what he wanted and heartlessly disposed of those who no longer served his needs.
It is under these circumstances that Edwina Wojneck, the daughter of a Polish coal miner, starts working as a laundry maid at Rochurst Manor. Sent away from home by her fractious mother, Edwina has to forgo all dreams of a better life and submit herself to her new and terrifying master. However, Edwina unknowingly has some powerful friends, people dedicated to seeing the Rochurst reputation and its fortune restored. Edwina, for her part, needs to have the courage to finally face her fears and boldly speak out about the terrible things she has witnessed.
Strong themes flow throughout this novel. The class distinction between the fabulously wealthy Rochursts and the servants that do their bidding is clearly presented. Towards the end, however, these boundaries become less distinct. There are strong references to homosexuality and suggestions of pedophilia, which are integral to the outcome of the story. The plight of the mentally ill is also dealt with, and the terrible institutions which housed them are described in explicit detail.
The characters are generally bold and well-developed. Although pivotal to the outcome, Edwina is not at the forefront for most of the story. A good deal of the book is devoted to providing a detailed background for the reader, chronicling the histories of the Rochurst and Wojneck families. Also, the family trees presented at the beginning of the book help the reader in clarifying the characters involved.
I can honestly say there is nothing I disliked about this book. I did, however, find the flow of the writing improved substantially after the first few chapters. The slightly awkward start gave me the impression that the author was still in the process of formulating her ideas. There were a few minor grammatical errors I noticed, mostly in the form of misplaced commas and word spacing. I think another round of editing would quickly eliminate these inconsistencies. There was only one mild profanity noted, and it was quite inoffensive. Although modestly presented, there are frequent references to illicit affairs, homosexuality, and pedophilia. This would make the novel totally unsuitable for young, impressionable readers or anyone sensitive to such matters.
I found White Gloves by Karen Warfield to be a very absorbing and poignant story. Women play a central role in the development of the plot, and the idea of “girl power” runs prominently throughout. For this reason, I expect it would be better received by women than men. It would definitely be appreciated by people who enjoy stories of female empowerment, especially in a time when women were afforded very few rights.
After careful consideration, I would rate this book 3 out of 4 stars. Despite the editorial issues, the story was well constructed and pleasant to read. A good indicator of a successful book is the feelings it leaves the reader with once the last page is turned. I’m happy to say this book left me feeling satisfied and well-pleased with the outcome.
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