Alice in Bed, A Novel by Judith Hooper
One of her brothers is the greatest English novelist of his time; another is inventing American psychology. The James family is famous in Boston and New York for its brilliance, eccentricity, and spellbinding conversation. Alice James is no less remarkable than her brothers, but there is a problem: she is a girl. Her education has been haphazard, there are no colleges for women, and young ladies are expected to be Angels in the House. No one could be less suited to angelic domesticity than the tart-tongued, defiantly original Alice. She must chart her own course, but how?
When we meet her in 1889, Alice has taken London by storm, charming the fashionable intellectual world with her wit. Then, falling mysteriously ill, she becomes confined to her bed in a lodging house in provincial England. Thus begins her second life. We journey into her past as she relives (or re-dreams) her life, unlocking its secrets. How did her collapse begin? Was it “Father’s Ideas”? The night she drank absinthe and fell in love with a girl? The time William went to the asylum? The childhood years in Paris, when Father fired each of her governesses in turn? Was it the horrors of the Civil War, the erotic relations with the Temple cousins, the day Henry deserted her and sailed to Europe? Was it simply the oddness of “growing up James”?
Alice in Bed is an absorbing, poignant, sometimes hilarious journey through the Gilded Age with one of literature’s most unusual and captivating heroines.
“Our little housemaid Louisa told Nurse you had to be as happy as you could be while you were young because afterwards you never could be. Why? “Because then you’ll be married and how can you be happy with a man at your back the whole time?”
—from Alice James’ diary