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Harriet and Isabella

3.35  ·  Rating Details ·  460 Ratings  ·  118 Reviews
It is 1887, and Henry Ward Beecher lies dying. Reporters from around the world, eager for one last story about the most lurid scandal of their time, descend on Brooklyn Heights, their presence signaling the beginning of the voracious appetite for fallen celebrities we know so well today.When Henry Ward Beecher was put on trial for adultery in 1875, the question of his guil ...more
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published January 8th 2008 by Touchstone Books (first published 2008)
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(showing 1-30)
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Rebecca Huston
A very involving tale of two sisters, Harriet and Isabella, members of the large, well-known Beecher family, and the trial that drove them apart. This is a carefully plotted, intricate novel about slavery, women's rights, and family loyalties, all gathered up in a story that really made me think. Those who like their historical fiction to be well-written and accurate will enjoy this one. I give it four stars and a recommendation.

For the longer review, please go here:
Oct 16, 2009 Marie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
(Technically a 4.5 star read)
I absolutely loved this novel. My heart ached at several points within the book and then again at the end. I even cried. I checked the rating on Goodreads as I marked this finished, and the average rating is 3.24 of 5. So again, I am loving a book beyond reality. But I'm not changing my rating of 4.5, because I LOVED IT! This is a very absorbing fictional account of the sisters to Henry Ward Beecher who caused a sensational scandal in 1875 when he was publicly accuse
Jul 14, 2012 Gretchen rated it liked it
In the mid-1800s, the Beecher family was one of the most famous families in the United States. Most everyone is familiar with Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom's Cabin, and maybe a few are familiar with Henry Ward Beecher, famous American preacher. But there were 11 other children in this family. Some have likened them to the Kennedy family in our era.

Harriet and Isabella focuses on the relationship between Harriet Beecher Stowe and her younger sister Isabella, who actually was a half-s
Marta hoelscher
Jan 26, 2009 Marta hoelscher rated it it was amazing
In this book O'brien has brought to life the Beecher family, one of the most influential families of the 19th century. The book focuses on the relationship between Harriet and Isabella. Harriet was the author of Uncle Tom's Cabin and Isabella was a proponent of women's rights. When a scandal threatens their families reputation they come to an impasse that almost destroyed their relationship.

This story is as much about the relationships between all of the Beecher family as it is about loyalty. T
Dec 02, 2010 Sterlingcindysu rated it really liked it
This book covers a topic I hadn't known about, that of the trial regarding Henry Ward Beecher's infidelity. I didn't know about the famous family either, of the sister that wrote Uncle Tom's Cabin or the suffragate. They were the Kennedys of the mid-1850's. O'Brien did a great job of describing everyday life, the clothes, behavior, houses, as well as the tormet between two sisters. What is more important, protecting a family's honor or fighting the truth? (copied review) Harriet Beecher Stowe, a ...more
Aug 06, 2016 Heather rated it really liked it
I liked this book, particularly the dynamics of a large family, because that's always entertaining to me. I had also never considered the influence of the Beecher family during that time specifically, although O'Brien belabored the point (for example I do not attribute the success of the abolitionist movement to primarily Harriet Beecher Stowe, no matter how important Uncle Tom's Cabin was to our history). I also took issue with a few anachronisms that would jar you out of the flow.

Over all it w
Beth Evans
Sep 14, 2010 Beth Evans rated it liked it
I liked this book more for what I learned than for the book itself. I don't think the writing is particularly strong, and it's not especially evocative of the latter 19th century. However, I learned more about the Beecher family than I knew before (which wasn't much), and I'm on my way to the library to get the biography of Henry Ward Beecher. What a fascinating and multi-talented family. I can't wait to find out more. Unfortunately, the book doesn't stand on its own especially well, but it's a ...more
Jul 27, 2012 George rated it liked it
A fictional account of the Beecher family, who apparently were one of the more accomplished American families of the 1800s. The "Harriet" in the title is Harriet Beecher Stowe of Uncle Tom's Cabin fame. Her brother, whose trial is at the center of the book's plot was noted preacher Henry Ward Beecher, and some readers may be familiar with the recipe and domestic advice books of older sister Catherine(aka "Miss Beecher"). In addition, younger half-sister Isabella was apparently associated with a ...more
Jan 28, 2015 Angela2932 rated it really liked it
The Beautiful Ms. Bonnie (my 15 year old yellow lab) would like to bring another book to your attention. She just finished reading an historical novel, "Harriet & Isabella," by Patricia O'Brien, and wants to tell you a few things about this book. She says, "It's a good read, but if there's something else compelling going on in your life, it might be a bit difficult to get into initially. The book is about Harriet Beacher Stowe, the author of "Uncle Tom's Cabin", and her sister, Isabella Beec ...more
Jun 16, 2016 Terri rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Harriet and Isabella is a novel based on the history of the Beecher family. I like stories that are based on history because I learn a lot about those people and that time in a captivating way. This story weaves in all sorts of people like Samuel Clemens and Susan B. Anthony and the events of that time, slavery, suffragettes, feminism.

This book was not so much action packed as it was a story about relationships. Henry Ward Beecher, a well loved pastor in his day, is accused of adultery. The stor
Nov 01, 2010 Deb rated it really liked it
Harriet and Isabella is an absorbing historical novel about the Beecher family, whose most notable members were writer Harriet Beecher Stowe and clergyman Henry Ward Beecher. The author describes the Beechers as the Kennedy Clan of the 19th century: highly accomplished, close-knit, and the object of intense (and gleeful) public attention when they fall.

In the early 1870s, Henry Ward Beecher, known for theological views that seem close to Universalism, is accused of sexual impropriety with the wi
The Beecher family had many members in the forefront of the news in the 19th Century. Henry Ward Beecher was the most well-known preacher in the United States. He was on trial for adultery in 1875. In events leading up to the trial, the Beecher siblings chose sides. Harriet Beecher Stowe, the author of "Uncle Tom's Cabin" and a famous abolitionist, stood by her brother. Their sister, Isabella Beecher Hooker, who was involved in the suffragist movement, thought he should publicly confess his sins ...more
Jul 15, 2009 Sarah rated it liked it
I spent three months with this book on my nightstand. Each night I would pick it up and read a couple of pages, put it down, and pick up another book that I really wanted to read. Normally, this would be a sign to me and I would, after much frustration, sit down and read the book through just to get it over with. Many people recently told me that I should just give up on reading books that seemed unenjoyable at the beginning. On the eve of following their advice, I sat down and forced myself to ...more
Apr 10, 2009 Kathy rated it did not like it
I wanted to like this book. I really did. I tried valiantly to stay interested in the story, as it was selected by my Book Club. But, ulitmately, it was a disappointment for me.

The author, Patricia O'Brien, brought very little to the page that made me care about these characters--Harriet Beecher Stowe, her sister Isabella, and her brother Henry Ward Beecher. O'Brien, in my opinion, is a sloppy, ineffective writer. The book is laced with dull dialogue and clumsy grammar. While reading, I correct
I was somewhat disappointed with this one, possibly only because I was expecting something different. For some reason, I was under the impression that we would be spending more time with the two sisters as they were growing up, and would see more how about they became activists. Instead, most of the story was consumed with the trial of Henry Ward Beecher. It was interesting, particularly to see society's reaction to adultery and to women in general, but it started to drag on after awhile, and ul ...more
Jan 07, 2009 Meghan rated it it was ok
Oh blah. I didn't know anything about this scandal, or much about the family before reading the book, and I don't feel I know much more other than a cliffs notes version of it now. This was neither illuminating, nor particularly engaging. I don't feel it worked particularly well on the historical or fiction side. There wasn't enough description to put me into the era. What a waste of time having a party at Samuel Clemens' home if you're not going to be more descriptive of what it might really ha ...more
Michele Weiner
May 09, 2012 Michele Weiner rated it liked it
It's a quick read, anyhow. The author became interested in the Beecher family, the Kennedys of the mid-1800s, and found that there was a breach in the solidarity of the extraordinary group of siblings when brother Henry Ward Beecher was accused of adultery and tried in court. Sisters Catherine (founder of schools and prolific writer of self-help books), Mary, and Harriet (author of Uncle Tom's Cabin) stood by Henry, putting loyalty to the family above honesty. Youngest child Isabella, a leader o ...more
Nov 18, 2008 Eileen rated it really liked it
As we all know, Harriet Beecher Stowe is famous for helping to change U.S. history by writing "Uncle Tom's Cabin". What I never knew was that her sister, Isabella was well known for her dedication to the suffragist movement. And their brother, Henry Ward Beecher was a well know preacher - yes, he was Preacher Beecher. There were other Beecher children, but this story is mainly about the three I've mentioned. Overall, it was an interesting book, although I have to agree with another reviewer in t ...more
Carre Gardner
Dec 16, 2009 Carre Gardner rated it it was amazing
The real-life Beechers were--in the author's own words--the Kennedy family of the 19th century. This is the fictionalized historical account of what happened to that family when its brightest star, the celebrity Presbyterian minister Henry Ward Beecher, was accused and stood trial for adultery. Most of his siblings--most notably his sister Harriet Beecher Stowe (of Uncle Tom's Cabin fame)--stood staunchly by him, believing that loyalty was a greater virtue than truth. Only his sister Isabella Be ...more
Karen Gallant
Feb 07, 2016 Karen Gallant rated it liked it
Interesting read about the Beecher family. I was educated quite a bit as I did not know much about them other than the fact that Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote Uncle Tom's Cabin and that her sister Isabella was in the suffragette movement alongside Susan B Anthony. Turns out their family was much larger - both in number but also import and life. The book centers around the family trauma/divide created by the accusation of adultery related to their brother Henry, a famous (infamous?) church minister ...more
Grandma Weaver
Sep 15, 2011 Grandma Weaver rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
the only member of the beecher family i had heard about was harriet who wrote uncle tom;s cabin. seems it was an entire family of over achievers. the story tells of the relationship between the sisters who had differing opinions of the guilt of their famous brother henry ward beecher. he was pastor of a large church in brooklyn and was accused and sued by the husband of one of the congregations women for adultry. the trial lasted 5 months and was a circus with the press and differing opinions of ...more
Mar 26, 2010 Erika rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I tried to like this book more than I actually did. O'Brien writes about the Beecher family, solid characters for a book, but I didn't feel they were very well developed. Let me rephrase that. There were definite qualities about the characters, but none that made them very likeable or made me invest much in their story.

The first half is Isabella's point of view. I found her sufferage work fascinating, but not exactly her character. The second half is Harriet (author of Uncle Tom's cabin) and he
May 03, 2013 Lisa rated it liked it
What an interesting family! Can't believe they didn't talk to one another for almost 15 years because of a "family loyalty" issue. The Beechers were evidently a well- known family in late 1800's, but I had only read about Harriet Beecher Stowe who wrote Uncle Tom's Cabin. This story is about the family and specifically about brother Henry, famous minister, who is on trial for adultery, and the family's loyalty to him. Isabella was not loyal to her brother, and there's the reason for the estrange ...more
Caroline Bartels
Aug 09, 2011 Caroline Bartels rated it liked it
This one was a slow start and it took me a few days to really get into the story of Isabella Beecher Hooker and Harriet Beecher Stowe and the rift that rose between them when their brother, the famous preacher Henry Ward Beecher, was tried for adultery. These folks were the Kennedys of the 19th century and O'Brien certainly did her research. The sharp juxtaposition between years are sometimes hard to follow, and I wanted to love this book because I love historical fiction, but that sharp, choppy ...more
Jan 05, 2011 Karen rated it it was ok
Harriet and Isabella are estranged sisters that belong to the famous Beecher family. Harriet is the Harriet Beecher Stowe that wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Isabella is an ardent suffragist activist. These 2 strong women look back over their lives as their father Harry Beecher lies in his bed near death. This historical fiction shows how the country was struggling with the issues of slavery and women’s rights.

I thought the writing style to be a little confusing at times because the story lapsed ba
Linda Tate
Jul 18, 2008 Linda Tate rated it it was amazing
Outstanding historical fiction! I'm keenly (passionately?) interested in 19th-century American history/culture, so it's not surprising that I loved (LOVED!) this beautifully written, provocatively structured novel about Harriet Beecher Stowe, her sister Isabella Beecher Hooker, and her brother Henry Ward Beecher. Who knew the Beecher siblings were involved in a scandalous trial--by some accounts, *the* trial of the 19th century?!? And who knew this trial was the first big celebrity scandal. Wow! ...more
Dec 06, 2012 Eric rated it liked it
"Family must prevail." So says older sister Catherine. And so it does, to a point. Not one to generally read, or trust, "historical fiction" -- hell historians get it wrong much of the time, who'd trust novelists to get it right? -- this rendering of the the Beecher family, is yet quite engaging. The saga of Harriet Beecher Stowe, sister Isabella, brother Henry Ward and the siblings is indeed of historic proportions. The Brooklyn and Connecticut scenes, and the family dynamics, ring true. As doe ...more
Apr 01, 2010 Ms. rated it really liked it
I wasn't aware how famous The Beecher family was before beginning the book (besides Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote Uncle Tom's Cabin). It told a great story of a woman attempting to fit into a family and how the familial roles change as we get older and adjusting to accommodate our growing sense of self and our ideals.
I also thought it was insightful story of a family under public scrutiny and the object of so much speculation and media attention with or without their consent and often to the detr
Mar 04, 2008 Dit rated it really liked it
In 1875, Henry Ward Beecher was on trial accused of adultery. Most of his family including Harriet Beecher Stowe sided with him. His sister, Isabella Hooker, questioned his side of the story and was drummed out of the family. When the novel opens, Henry's on his deathbed and Isabella has come to town to try to see him one more time. The novel goes back through their family history and upbringing, class and sex distinctions, Henry's almost "rock star" personality, how the press always clamors for ...more
Liddy Barlow
Mar 21, 2008 Liddy Barlow rated it it was ok
I found the Beecher family -- abolitionist author Harriet Beecher Stowe, domestic goddess Catherine, superstar preacher Henry, and early feminist Isabella Beecher Hooker, along with a flock of other siblings -- fascinating, and I would have really enjoyed reading non-fiction about their accomplishments and relationships. I did not, however, enjoy Harriet and Isabella. O'Brien bashes readers over the head with the moral of the story (yeah, we get it, sometimes telling the truth is really hard) an ...more
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Patricia O'Brien is the author of the critically acclaimed novel The Glory Cloak and co-author of I Know Just What You Mean, a New York Times bestseller. She lives in Washington, D.C.
Writes also under the pseudonym Kate Alcott.
More about Patricia O'Brien...

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