I’m so angry that THIS was my half-cannon ball…..
I’m working on researching “Godey’s Lady’s Book” for an annual historic fashion show I run, and there’s a striking lack of historical documentation about this famous magazine other than manually plowing through 60 years worth of the magazine itself, and frankly, I don’t have that kind of time.
So I thought I would do a bit of digging about the founder and his editor, Sarah Hale, to shed some light on the gaping holes I have in this history. Apparently no one has felt the need to research these people either, so it was with a desperate elation that I came across “Sarah Joespha Hale: The Life and Times of a 19th Century Career Woman.”
The title seemed to hold everything I needed about this woman! Her career, the magazine, and hopefully a bit of information about the culture of the 19th Century….LIES!
The book starts like a fourth grade report with “Sarah Josepha was born on…” in which Ms. Fryatt proceeds to describe this impossibly pristine bucolic landscape somewhere in the depths of New England where Sarah laughed and pranced with rainbows and bunnies through waving fields of grain for most of her young life. You know, because a child who lived on a farm in the 19th Century wouldn’t have had anything to do like chores or looking after a plethora of siblings.
Once the family moved to “the city” she apparently discovered books and began reading at a voracious rate. The author takes precious page space to point out that Sarah was reading Shakespeare at age 10 which according to Ms. Fryatt is not something for little children, so obviously this must mean Sarah was a prodigy…. as opposed to the fact that it was incredibly popular to have a volume of Shakespeare in a 19th Century home and many children of the time read Shakespeare as part of their daily lessons.
But I digress….
I skimmed most of this book as the writing was like an overly frosted and ultimately disappointing cupcake that gave incessant undocumented or speculated details about most of Sarah Hale’s life, particularly when dealing with her relationships. Now, I don’t mind narrative story-telling in a micro history or a biography, and I certainly applaud and enjoy when scholars take their knowledge and make an educated assessment of what their historical person was probably doing or thinking. That’s the product of good research and knowing your subject matter.
But Ms. Fryatt flies over that line like a NASCAR driver in the last turn and catapults us into the throes of historical fiction where her writing is a thinly veiled attempt at getting Sarah Hale on the list of some type of sainthood with a dash of Mary Sue for fun.
The only thing this book did minutely well was to discuss Hale’s work with Godey’s magazine, which was lucky for me since that was the information I was really after, but since Ms. Fryatt footnoted NOTHING throughout her book, and her bibliography is less than convincing, I can’t take most of her information seriously, and will have to verify all her facts with other sources.
This book was a sugar coated, G-rated, happy history that was mostly unhelpful and not worth anyone’s time.
DO NOT READ THIS BOOK.