VJ's Reviews > Passing Strange: A Gilded Age Tale of Love and Deception Across the Color Line

Passing Strange by Martha A. Sandweiss
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Apr 06, 2011

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Read in October, 2009

** spoiler alert ** This book was most difficult to read. Clarence King was a deceitful old bugger, who married a woman 20 years his junior. She was easily deceived. Though Sandweiss states that Ada King refused to be made a victim, she and her family were the victims of King's selfish, narcissistic acts.

So much was known about King, so little was known about Ada. Her story is little more than conjecture until the last chapters of the book, where the description of her battle with the keepers of King's secrets, memory and legacy,is presented in the courts. Winning only the title to her home, Ada's best revenge was living to the age of 103. Likely, she had no enmity against the man who had most wronged her by lying to her about his identity through 13 years of marriage and 5 children, but I think I have enough for her. There is also the matter of the lies he told to his sister and mother, not to mention the lies he committed by omission when he failed to tell his friends the true nature of his relations and lifestyle.

Clarence King was no better than the slave owners who abused their "property" whenever they liked. True, he did keep her in middle-class style (by 19th C black standards), and did profess love undying for her and the children, but this does not excuse his excessive lying. Something was wrong with King. His relationship with Ada was abuse of power, plain and simple. He wanted a woman with little education, little knowledge of the world; he wanted a woman of color because of his notions of the passionate and sensual nature of "exotics". Clarence King was a ruddy bastard.
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Reading Progress

10/13/2009 page 223
58.07% "Clarence King, geologist, was a selfish, deceitful man whose absences from home did not seem to hamper his Black wife's life."

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