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Unmentionables

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3.60  ·  Rating Details  ·  280 Ratings  ·  62 Reviews
"Exceptionally readable and highly recommended."
-- Library Journal (starred review)

A January 2014 MIBA Midwest Connections pick!

"Engaging first work from a writer of evident ability."
-- Kirkus Reviews

"Marian Elliot Adams'...tale is contagiously enthusiastic."
-- Publishers Weekly

"Unmentionables is a sweeping and memorable story of struggle and suffrage, love and redempti
...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published January 7th 2014 by Kaylie Jones Books (first published January 1st 2013)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 901)
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Kaylie Jones
Nov 01, 2013 Kaylie Jones rated it it was amazing
This is the flagship novel of my new imprint, Kaylie Jones Books, which I have started because I find there is little room for literary novels of this quality in mainstream publishing these days.

Akashic Books, which has for 15 years been championing the literary underdog, allowed me to start this imprint under their aegis. I will never be able to thank Johnny Temple, publisher, enough.

This novel reminds me of the best of Edith Wharton and Katherine Ann Porter. It feels like a great American nove
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Yvette
Dec 28, 2013 Yvette rated it it was amazing
Laurie Loewenstein’s Unmentionables is the best work of historical fiction I have read in the past few years.

From the heat and excitement of the Chautauqua assemblies, to the prejudices and politics of segregated small town America, to the dangerous French countryside of World War I, the settings are firmly planted in 1917. Where some authors of the genre stop a story to relate facts they found through research, this author seamlessly integrates her research into the story, and a well researche
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Heather
Oct 29, 2013 Heather rated it really liked it
This was a great historical novel that, in spite of it's setting 95 years ago, has many parallels in today's society when it comes to issues of gender, race, ethnicity, and class. I felt very invested in the well-being of the protagonists, especially Marian and Helen, who are modern early 20th century women in different stages of life: one established in her career (during a time when women were generally expected to aspire only to marriage and motherhood) and the other yearning to break away fr ...more
Story Circle Book Reviews
Oct 17, 2014 Story Circle Book Reviews rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed
Laurie Lowenstein's debut historical fiction novel, Unmentionables, is set in 1917-1918 weaving three diverse locations into the complicated plot: The small town of Emporia, Illinois; the Red Cross's involvement in World War I; and finally the high school valedictorian's misadventures in Chicago—all described in compassionate and vivid detail. Readers are kept on their toes absorbing all the events, with action weaving in and out between the characters. It is a strong story that stays with the r ...more
Patrick
Mar 29, 2014 Patrick rated it it was amazing
Full disclosure: I'm a student of the publisher (Kaylie Jones), and I learned about this book through her new imprint. After buying it, I found out that the author knew my in-laws as kids in Ohio -- very small world. I'm also overly critical when it comes to my literary fiction.

That said and out of the way, the first thing that impressed me about Laurie Loewenstein's Unmentionables was the prose. It's incredibly tight and smart in a way that creates a unique voice without being too affected. In
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Patty
This novel was recommended to me by OverDrive. I still haven't figured out why OverDrive recommends the books it does, but this was an entertaining choice. I liked the subject matter - I knew very little about the Chautauqua tours that went around the United States at the beginning of the 20th century. Also the characters were interesting and I wanted to know more about Helen and Marian - two of the main characters.

On the other hand, this was not the most memorable story. I read it over Thanksgi
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Anne Henry
Jun 08, 2014 Anne Henry rated it it was amazing
“Informative and insightful. “Unmentionables,” begins with Marian Eliot Adams’s appearance at a Circuit Chautauqua in Emporia, Illinois in 1917. She is an outspoken advocate for sensible women’s undergarments. I’d never heard of a Chautauqua and was impressed that what was basically a traveling adult education program existed in that time. The program advocated for social change, entertained, and also informed. We follow Marian from the circuit to war-ravaged France in the throes of World War I ...more
Melissa
Nov 20, 2013 Melissa rated it it was amazing
Shelves: first-reads
This book make you proud to be a woman. American, French or otherwise a proud and strong woman. Unmentionables deals with real historical issues which are still relevant today. Realistic to the time period and very engaging. You feel the book long after you are done. Ms. Loewenstein has the ability to transport you back to this time period. Very very good read.

I won this book through goodreads.
Carol Ann
May 08, 2014 Carol Ann rated it really liked it
Friend gave this to me as a birthday present (she thought it took place in Emporia, KS, but I quickly learned it was Emporia, IL!) and I picked it up over a weekend when I had nothing else to read & thought I'd be able to honestly tell her that yes, I read it. And lo & behold, it's one of the best things I've read this year! I wasn't sure what to expect from it but there were deeper issues (women's rights, racism, addictions) that were addressed without sentimentality and in a realistic ...more
Lora Dudding
Apr 04, 2014 Lora Dudding rated it it was ok
I thought this book was going to be funny. I was expecting a Fanny Flagg sort of small town story. But it wasn't. I found it to be mostly boring and a slow read. The ending disappointed.
Kendra
Jan 04, 2014 Kendra rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014-books-read
Few people alive today remember the Chatauqua assemblies that traveled through the Midwest states during the early to mid-1900's. These assemblies brought entertainment, educational programs, and cultural enlightenment to the people of these small rural communities. This story develops mostly in one of these communities, Emporia, where Marian Elliot Adams appears to speak about how womens' clothing restricts not only her body, but her place in society. When Marian falls off the stage and breaks ...more
Susan
Feb 26, 2014 Susan rated it really liked it
Interesting book. The essence of small-town Midwestern America at the beginning of World War I was depicted very well. The Chautauqua rage, the women's suffragette movement, and the ongoing racism of that time were all described well, with good use of revealing details. The separate threads of the narrative, however, got a little too far apart toward the last third of the novel. The Red Cross effort in Picardy was just too far removed from the ongoing town activities in Emporia. But the writing ...more
Barbara Taylor
Mar 26, 2014 Barbara Taylor rated it it was amazing
I love this book! When I first started reading UNMENTIONABLES, I googled one of Loewenstein’s main characters, Marian Elliot Adams, because I was certain she had to have been a real figure in history, lecturing about women’s undergarments on the Chautauqua circuit. I soon discovered that Marian’s flamboyancy, her outspokenness, even her vulnerabilities were all created in the author’s imagination. Amazing!

Loewenstein’s novel is both quiet and powerful. She deftly anchors the reader in a time whe
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Julie
Feb 24, 2014 Julie rated it really liked it
A very good first novel set in the years 1917-1918. We follow the lives of a handful of characters who are based for the most part in Illinois. The story does take us to Chicago and France too!

This novel is really about how life is changing everywhere, even in Peoria. The Great War is raging, the roles of women are changing, and the residents of Peoria are having trouble getting along. The main characters are Marian the circuit lecturer, Deuce the harried newspaper editor, Helen the young suffr
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Mary
Sep 21, 2014 Mary rated it really liked it
Loewenstein offers more than a glimpse into an era of change in early twentieth century America. Set in a small town in the Midwest, we meet authentic characters whose thoughts and values speak of a lost time of family gatherings; women with no right to vote, working to raise a family before many or the comforts we take for granted now, and racial inequality was standard fare. Enjoyable, endearing, heartbreaking... the book offers it all. No hints or spoilers here! Go get a copy and read it for ...more
Trish Goodwin
Jun 21, 2014 Trish Goodwin rated it it was ok
Meh.
Lisa
Dec 04, 2013 Lisa rated it liked it
I was lucky enough to win an Early Reviewer copy of Laurie Loewenstein's Unmentionables from librarything.com. In it, we follow Marian, who travels the country in the early 1900's as a Chautauqua speaker, as well as Deuce and his step daughter Helen, two people she meets on her circuit. Marian is speaking about women's undergarments, the unmentionables of the title, urging women to wear less confining undergarments, allowing them to live more freely. This of course is shocking talk in the early ...more
Tom Donaghey
Jan 16, 2014 Tom Donaghey rated it liked it
Shelves: classic-american
“UNMENTIONABLES” is first and foremost a love story set in a small Illinois town during 1917. A leading speaker upon women’s rights, Marian Adams, as part of the Chautauqua Traveling Tent Show, injures herself and has to stay in town to recover. There she meets and almost falls directly into the arms of Deuce Garland, the recently widowed newspaper editor of the small, bucolic town.
But it is not just a love story but also a look into the lives of a town, the people who populate it, and the ha
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Elise
Feb 13, 2015 Elise rated it liked it
I'm having a Statler and Waldorf moment about this book. At first when I finished it, I thought it was really good. The more I thought about it, I got more and more of a meh vibe about the whole thing. The terrible thing is that I cannot explain why this is. The writing was good, the story was interesting, but perhaps it was because there was no real climax in the end. It just stopped. I guess I have a slight addiction to a good ending - not even a satisfying ending, but a genuine ending. There ...more
Greta Nettleton
Sep 23, 2014 Greta Nettleton rated it really liked it
A sympathetic portrait of small-town Midwestern life during World War I; great characters, funny dialogue, well-worth reading. Chronicles the middle years of America's 150 year struggle to implement equal rights for women and blacks and also tours readers to the Dill Pickle Club in Chicago (a bohemian, radical hangout) and then across the Atlantic to France, behind the trenches, with the Fielding College Relief Unit.
Beth
Jun 06, 2014 Beth rated it really liked it
Compelling book set primarily in a small Midwestern town in the 1910s. The characters are wonderfully fleshed out (including the ones you're going to dislike fiercely). Blended themes of the nature of small towns, the suffragist/feminism movement of the time, flight to cities, racism, family turmoil, World War I and love. And realism in how people grow through taking risks and enduring.

Highly recommended to historical-fiction fans, especially because of a time and place not written about so much
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Tkjtwmr
Mar 11, 2015 Tkjtwmr rated it really liked it
This was a great book. Set during WW1 in various places and circumstances, I really enjoyed the storyline as well as the writing style. The characters were well developed and the events realistic. I was interested in how folks changed over the course of the book. Really liked it and hope Laurie Loewenstein writes another.

Historical fiction is my fav!!
Monna
Aug 30, 2014 Monna rated it liked it
Mildly entertaining light fiction. By the title, I was hoping for a story centered on the evolution of women's clothing in the early 20th century. I was disappointed that this book quickly abandons any notions of exploring clothing, and launches into a more typical story of women defying conventions of the time to lead a more independent life.
Ellen
We've , come a long way

Unmentionables is a thought provoking book. It has a big stage. Women's suffrage, WW1 discrimination of blacks and German people because of the war. 1917-18 was a watershed time in American history. Unmentionables provides a long look at where we've been and how we've gotten to where we are now.
Melissa
Nov 08, 2014 Melissa rated it really liked it
An interesting book that takes place in a different era, during World War I. It's unique- it's not every day you'll find a book similar to this one. I especially liked how there were a few different storylines, all of them were interesting, especially the two main character's (Marion and Deuce). I recommend to anyone who wants to read a good story that takes place during this time/era!
David Robert
Aug 25, 2014 David Robert rated it it was amazing
Laurie's book wasn't in my typical reading category but I was captivated. I'm not sure why other reviewers are stating that her characters were all flat? That wasn't my perception at all. I felt she did a wonderful job balancing the sharing of historical events with emotionally connecting us to the characters. Gret job!
Rebecca
Jun 24, 2014 Rebecca rated it liked it
This well-researched historical fiction novel inspired informative Wikipedia searches, thereby teaching me about the lifestyles of my Midwestern ancestors at the time of WWI. I much preferred Part I to Parts II and III, and honestly, I skipped through a bit of Part II to avoid the war scenes. The individual characters were archetypal and flat, but I still appreciated hearing about their lives.
Stephen
Apr 12, 2014 Stephen rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Washington Centerville Public Library
This is an obviously well researched historical novel, rich with details about many aspects of American life. My only complaints are that some of the secondary characters were introduced quickly and with no backstory and that the antagonistic elements seemed to be relatively easily overcome for the characters.
Bonnie
Apr 14, 2014 Bonnie rated it it was amazing
I loved this book, it is fast paced, I enjoyed her writing style. I especially loved the research she did as she had so many Items and ways of the time really down, I wish I had marked specifics but she knows her history and the times. I was surprised at how much she packed into this book, very well done, especially for a first book.

I loved the characters and the harsh reality of the times. Many think the good old days were easier and people treated others well, ha, not so, they had racists and
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I am a fifth generation Midwesterner with roots in Ohio, Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas. Growing up, there were always teetering stacks of books beside everyone's beds. The stacks live on in my house, an ever-changing mosaic of novels, mysteries, biographies, and history. My writing life has included several wonderful years on small daily newspapers as a feature and obituary writer. Later ...more
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