Wednesday, May 18, 2016
Set in the extravagant Gilded Age, Remember the Ladies explores the conflict between the sexes with delightful writing and elegant descriptions, which brings the reader back to a time when the struggle for women’s equality had just begun. -- Five Star Publishing
If you described the premise of REMEMBER THE LADIES by Gina L. Mulligan to me a few weeks ago, I probably would have said something like, "That sounds interesting... (with a for you implied.)" I can't say that I know much about the history of the women's suffrage plight besides what I learned in school a very long time ago. And I am embarrassed to say that I have never given it much thought... which is really terrible considering that it was less than 130 years ago when women weren't allowed to vote in this country.
REMEMBER THE LADIES tells the story of Amelia Cooke, a young girl whose parents died in an unfortunate accident and was forced to grow up in an orphanage. Amelia's life wasn't easy, but she developed some valuable traits that made her into one very successful adult. After leaving the orphanage, she meets a powerful Washington lobbyist on a train and decides that she wants to be his protege. He isn't interested in Amelia, but he offers her some advice. She learns everything she can about Washington and its politics and eventually impresses him enough that he takes her under his wings.
Already a successful lobbyist, Amelia is hired in 1887 by the National Women's Suffrage Association to lobby for an amendment that would give women the right to vote. She jumps head first into this quest; however, an old flame in the form of Senator Edward Stillman is just as determined to stop her. Both Amelia and Stillman have unresolved feelings and know how to play the D.C. game, so it's a dramatic fight to the finish to see if the amendment has enough votes for passage.
I was surprised by how much I enjoyed REMEMBER THE LADIES. I didn't think I had much interest in the topic, but I'm happy to say that Ms. Mulligan proved me wrong! She created a terrific story for Amelia, from her childhood to her success as a lobbyist; and her writing drew me in from the first few pages.
I appreciated how the author developed the character of Amelia from a very young age. Amelia was way ahead of her time (just like the women involved in the suffrage movement!), and her intelligence, boldness, and determination made sense to me because of the sum of her experiences. She led a very difficult life despite finding professional and financial success, and there is no doubt that it wasn't easy to succeed as a woman in those times.
Another thing I really enjoyed about this novel was how it brought the time period to life. I love politics (well love isn't the right word right now -- how about "am interested in" instead?) and found it fascinating that some of the things I deplore were alive and well in the late 1800s. Politics, politicians, and lobbyists seem to have always been kind of sleazy! I also found it quite interesting to learn about the history of the suffrage movement. These women were incredible and I don't think I'll ever take the right to vote for granted again!
Lastly, I want to convey just how great of a read this novel was. In addition the the history and the great character of Amelia, I found the story to be a real page-turner. This story was never dry. There was lots and lots of drama and even some romance. Plus there was an interesting evolution of Amelia's character towards the end of the novel that I found almost surprising. In fact, you could almost say that there were a few twists!
REMEMBER THE LADIES would make an excellent book club selection. There is a discussion guide available on the author's website with eight questions. Some of the themes you might want to explore include the role of women both in the late 1880s and today, the business of politics, perseverance, power, motherhood, and choices.
Given the timing of the presidential election in our country and the major role that women voters will play in the decision, REMEMBER THE LADIES is an extremely important and timely read. Highly recommended for fans of historical fiction!
Thanks to Get Red PR for providing a review e-copy of this novel.
Giveaway alert: I have a copy of REMEMBER THE LADIES to share with one lucky reader. To enter, just fill out the form below before May 31st at 11:59 p.m. EST. I will randomly select and notify the winner the following day. This contest is open to those of you with U.S. addresses only. Good luck!