What Alice Knew: A Most Curious Tale of Henry James and Jack the Ripper
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What Alice Knew: A Most Curious Tale of Henry James and Jack the Ripper

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3.28 of 5 stars 3.28  ·  rating details  ·  516 ratings  ·  119 reviews
"A marvelously rich and intelligent read, atmospheric, witty, irreverent, and not least a sharply perceptive portrait of those three extraordinary Jameses."
-John Banville, author of "The Infinities"

"Under Certain Circumstances, No One Is More Suited to Solving a Crime than a Woman Confined to Her Bed"

An invalid for most her life, Alice James is quite used to people undere...more
ebook, 0 pages
Published September 1st 2010 by Sourcebooks Landmark
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Bev Hankins
What a fantastic book! I haven't had a book snatch my attention and hold it like this for a long time. I started reading What Alice Knew: A Most Curious Tale of Henry James and Jack the Ripper by Paula Marantz Cohen last night. I snuggled down in bed with plenty of pillows and prepared to read just until I got sleepy. The next thing I knew it was 12:30 am. Not counting sleeping and chore-time, I read it straight through at a most amazing clip The historical details are right on target, the chara...more
Virginia
I got about 4 pages into this before I had to go look up profiles of all 3 of the James siblings on Wikipedia (William, Henry, Alice), because I realized I knew nothing about any of them. After I read the profiles, and got a little farther into the book, I started questioning why this story was written as, essentially, Real Person Fanfiction instead of an original work with fictional characters. It seemed like the circumstances and narrative were stretched to hang over the framework of the James...more
Mrs W
American philosopher William James is requested by Scotland Yard to come lend his expertise in the case of Jack the Ripper. Already in London are his brother and sister, novelist Henry James and Alice, a bedridden but intelligent woman. William has access to various pieces of information through his help in the official investigation, and each one of the James siblings has a unique perspective and expertise. Could this famed family have solved the case of Jack the Ripper?
• Mild language
• Sexual...more
Simon
This was pretty good, I thought. The depiction of Alice, Henry, and William James, and their relations with each other, was very well done.
Crystal
Why I read this: I was given a chance to read this by the publisher, it sounded fascinating and the author is new to me so I wanted to give it a try.

How is the novel driven: Primarily plot/action-driven though the character development is well-done also.

My thoughts: After the read-a-thon was done, this one was next on my list and I had a whole Sunday to myself (I have been sick, the kids were still at their grandparents and the hubby out of the house again), so I sat down to enjoy this novel. An...more
Jennifer
What Alice Knew fictionalizes the ultimate mystery - Who is Jack the Ripper? The end result is a whirlwind of action and intrigue that makes the familiar case new and exciting.

Author Henry James, his pioneer in the field of psychology brother William and their "professional invalid" sister Alice do their part to help hunt down the famed killer when a forward thinking official invites William to consult on the case.

While attempting to solve the mystery, each of the siblings puts for their own str...more
Jennifer
From my book review blog, Rundpinne.

"What Alice Knew: A Most Curious Tale of Henry James and Jack the Ripper by Paula Marantz Cohen takes a look at Henry, William, and Alice James and how they each use their talents to help Scotland Yard find Jack the Ripper. While William James is the person Scotland Yard has summoned from Harvard to help assist them, it is his brother Henry James who circulates among the elite in London as well as the with the great artists of the time. Meanwhile, bedridden A...more
Rebecca Briley
I was particularly drawn to this book because of its focus on Walter Sickert as the possible/probable Jack the Ripper, since I have been convinced the two are one and the same after reading Patricia Cornwell's well-supported examination of the evidence from which she draws the same conclusion. The intrusion of a Peter Newsome seems a red herring, but perfectly acceptable in fiction of this sort, and somewhat redeeming in keeping the novel from predictability. I enjoy historical novels that are p...more
Ida
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jen Locke
I really enjoyed this. It's set in a time and place that's interesting and it's characters are people (Henry James, John Singer Sargent, Jack the Ripper) I'm interested in.

The author weaves the story around the Jack the Ripper plot skillfully. And she intersperses little bits of wisdom.

Now if only the real murders had been this easy to catch.
Aimée
Jack the Ripper...with Oscar Wilde as one of the characters! This should be fun.


Meh. It was ok.
Katie Lambrix
While I actually enjoyed this book quite a bit, there were a few things about it that just bothered me too much to give it a higher rating. The story and subject matter were interesting, I just feel that perhaps it could have been polished up a bit more.

I think my biggest issue is that the climax of the action and the resolution of the story both happened within the last 5 or so pages of the book. It made it seem like a lot of build up for such little return.

Perhaps this is just an issue for me...more
Maron Anrow
My rating of this book is 2.5 stars, and I initially rounded it up to 3 (feeling generous?). However, I decided to round it down to 2 because I didn't enjoy it as much as most other books I rate 3 stars. Plus, I think Goodreads' 2-star label of "It was ok" more accurately describes how I felt about this book than the 3-star "I liked it."

I didn't think it was a bad book and it was certainly easy to read (pages flew by with little effort), but I wasn't impressed and I didn't find myself excited to...more
Anastasiya
One of the most original historical fictions I've ever read. The author takes existing historical figures that we are quite familiar with (Henry and William James) and creates a narrative within their lives that could have very easily taken place.

In the novel, the two brothers set out to find out the identity of Jack the Ripper. They go to dinner parties with more people we are familiar with (Oscar Wilde, Samuel Clemens), look at the existing evidence, and arrive at some interesting conclusions...more
fivesunflowers
**All my reviews may contain spoilers**

What a great little book. A work of fiction based on real people and real events that happened in and/or around the late 1800's. The three main characters are all siblings: Alice James the sister of William and Henry James; one a writer and the other an artist-turned famed psychologist. They are investigating the violent murders of women in London and trying to find the notorious Jack the Ripper.

Ms. Marantz Cohen intermingles fiction with non-fiction and I...more
Blodeuedd Finland
There are a few things I am very curious about, and Jack The Ripper is one of them. Who was he? I'd love the answer to that, and here I at least her one suggestion. But we can't really know.



In this book Jack The Ripper is terrorizing London, and Henry James is attending boring dinner parties. In London he also has his sister Alice who never gets out of bed. Because she feels there is something wrong with her. Their brother William is called to London to do a profile on Jack and help them catch h...more
Bill P.
May 23, 2010 Bill P. rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Bill by: Publisher
Starting this novel brought back painful memories of having to read Henry Jame's The Ambassadors during my college years, but Professor Cohen is happily a far more entertaining (and easy) read than old Henry. Her scholarship and historical command of the period is on display throughout the book as she makes Henry, brother Wiliam and sister Alice come alive in London of 1888. And she puts them on the trail of Jack the Ripper. The novel is populated by other historical figures as well and I got th...more
Kathleen Kelly
Henry James, an American born author, brother William, philosopher and psychologist is a professor at Harvard and is asked to come to London to assist Scotland Yard in apprehending the person known as Jack the Ripper. Henry and his invalid sister, diarist Alice James, get themselves involved in trying to solve the case in the Whitechapel slums, an art school and an asylum for the criminally insane. With Henry and William traveling about London investigating clues and Alice at home figuring out t...more
Sensitivemuse
This book was very descriptive. VERY descriptive. Yet it added a lot of ‘flavor’ and really set the setting for the book. It made picturing the scenes and settings much more clearer and it almost felt like watching a movie. I especially like the dinner scenes (particularly when Henry was hosting a party) they were very well written and it also gave you a look on how parties were handled during that particular time period in England.

The three main characters, Henry, William and Alice James were...more
Lori
I was absolutely thrilled to be asked to read and review Paula Marantz Cohen’s new novel, What Alice Knew, as I have read nearly every book (nonfiction and fiction) about Jack the Ripper I can get my hands on and I enjoy certain aspects of the Victorian era.

I was not disappointed by this marvelous book, which alternated between darkness and stinging intelligence but always remained descriptive. Ms. Cohen brought to life the bleak disparity between the lucky (the upper class) in London and abjec...more
Randee Baty
Jack the Ripper is one of the most intriguing stories of the 19th century and one of the most written about. What Alice Knew is a broody, atmospheric novel about Jack the Ripper that lets you feel the London fog curling around you.

The story revolves around Henry, William and Alice James. I knew about Henry James of course, having read The Turn of the Screw but I knew nothing about his family. William, his brother, was a professor at Harvard and Alice, his sister, was an invalid living in London...more
Heather
What initially caught my attention about this book was the subject of Jack the Ripper. I have always been intrigued by this story and have watched a show recently on this subject and I knew I had to read this author’s take on the crime. I didn’t really know much about the James family, but I figured I would learn as I went along.

One of the things that the author did that really made the book come to life was the use and understanding of the local language. You could certainly tell the difference...more
iubookgirl
Though only Alice and Henry get a mention in the title, all three of the famous Jameses play a role in this tale. William James is called in by Scotland Yard to help solve the case of Jack the Ripper. Alice decides she and her brothers are perfectly suited to unravel the mystery with their combined talents. Marantz Cohen expertly weaves these historical characters into an historical mystery to create an intriguing yet plausible solution to this great unsolved crime. She also injects contemporary...more
Ann Sloan
This historical mystery is a readable, enjoyable read full of period detail and insight. At times I felt like I was in Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris; London was so full of famous people that every where you turned who bumped into a genius: Oscar Wilde, John Singer Sargent, Philip Henry Gosse, the English naturalist, George du Maurier, known for his cartoons in Punch and grandfather Dame Daphne du Maurier as well as the boys who inspired Peter Pan, Edward Burne-Jones, William Chester Minor, the...more
Carol Hoenig
The following review may be also found here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/carol-h...

Henry James Meets Jack the Ripper--Maybe

Last night, after I finished reading Paula Marantz Cohen’s What Alice Knew: A Most Curious Tale of Henry James & Jack the Ripper, I turned on the television to see that Alfred Hitchcock’s “Dial M for Murder” was on. The movie was at the scene where Margot Mary Wendice asked Mark Halliday if he really believed in the perfect murder. Halliday replied, “Yes, absolutely. O...more
Nick Iuppa
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Kristen
I enjoyed this book, but more for the sense of place and the interesting characters, than for the Jack the Ripper storyline.

Alice James, sister to author Henry, and psychologist William, has been an invalid most of her life, and she's content with that. She lives a peaceful reclusive life, and manages her illness accordingly.

But when her brothers become, through an odd set of circumstances, involved in the investigation in London of the Jack the Ripper murders, Alice realizes that her introspect...more
Cathy
This story is (yet) another take on Jack the Ripper. The murders are not really the focus of the story, though. The story revolves around the James family, Henry (the famous novelist), William (the psychologist and philosopher) and Alice (a bed-ridden invalid). Henry is part of London society, hobnobbing with Oscar Wilde and John Singer Sargent; while Alice stays at home, entertaining guests from her sickbed. Alice's exact ailment is never really revealed. Also not detailed is the exact nature o...more
Kathryn
“What Alice Knew” is a fascinating and entertaining fictionalized “what if” look at the Jack the Ripper Murders (sometimes referred to as the Whitechapel Murders) if the case had been solved by the three famous James siblings, William, Henry, and Alice.

Bringing late 19th-century London brilliantly to life – and writing in a style very similar to that found in the psychologically-attuned, detail-oriented novels of Henry James – Marantz Cohen manages to spin a page-turning mystery while presenting...more
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Paula Marantz Cohen, Distinguished Professor of English, received her BA in English and French from Yale University and her Ph.D. in English from Columbia University. She is the author of seven books and numerous essays on literature, film, and culture.

Her most recent academic book, Silent Film and the Triumph of the American Myth (Oxford UP), was selected as a Choice Outstanding Book for 2003. H...more
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