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Mrs. Houdini

3.57  ·  Rating details ·  1,253 ratings  ·  218 reviews
A captivating debut novel, meticulously researched and beautifully imagined, about the passionate marriage of Harry and Bess Houdini—a love story that defied death itself.

Before escape artist Harry Houdini died, he vowed he would find a way to speak to his beloved wife Bess from beyond the grave using a coded message known only to the two of them. When a widowed Bess begin
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published March 1st 2016 by Atria Books
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  • Mrs. Houdini by Victoria     Kelly
    Mrs. Houdini

    Release date: Mar 01, 2016
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    Average rating 3.57  · 
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     ·  1,253 ratings  ·  218 reviews

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    Magdalena aka A Bookaholic Swede
    Escape artist Harry Houdini promised his wife Bess before he died that if it was possible would he find a way to speak to her again after death with a coded message only she would understand. Through this book, we get to follow Bess as she struggles through a life without Harry and hoping to get a message from him that he is waiting for her. The book also has a parallel storyline with her meeting Harry and their life together up until his death.

    I have a longstanding fascination with Harry Houdin
    Jan 04, 2016 rated it liked it
    Magical and intriguing, "Mrs. Houdini" was a fast read that was both informative and entertaining.

    This novel tells the tale of Harry and Bess Houdini -- the married circus and vaudeville team who performed together before Harry became truly famous as an escape artist. While we certainly read about the Houdinis' professional work and death-defying stunts, the real substance of the book is the love story between Harry and Bess, and their quest to determine whether it was actually possible to commu
    (DNF @ 40%) Perfectly serviceable historical fiction, but with no spark. I felt like I was just being given a lot of information about the two major time periods (1894 and 1929). Alas, scenes set at a séance, a circus, and an insane asylum are not nearly as exciting as they promise to be. And, as is often the case with these famous wives books – a genre I generally love but can also find oddly disappointing from time to time – the protagonist tries but fails to explain why she finds her husband ...more
    Rebecca Rosenberg
    What a gift Victoria Kelly gave us with this immaculately researched re-imagining of the incomparable Houdini, the world's most renown magician and escape artist. And from the unique perspective of his wife, Bess. I thoroughly enjoyed hearing the story this way, up close and personal, instead of a biography. I particularly loved how Victoria handled the time after Houdini died... I won't reveal the end, but it really created resonance with me, leaving me wanting the Houdinis to live on! As they ...more
    Jul 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
    An unusual different take. Eerie and Magical.

    Harry Houdini loved his wife Bess - and he believed that nothing was impossible. He wondered about magic versus illusion, and put himself up against death and always felt he would be invincible. He and Bess spoke often about him coming back to her after death. When he passes away, Bess goes on a mysterious quest to see if her impassioned lover could indeed do the impossible and come back to her. The book traces their love relationship, their intertwi
    Jan 04, 2016 rated it it was ok
    I have always found Houdini fascinating and this historical fiction book focuses on his wife Bess and their life from her perspective. The author used alternate storylines that focused on the couple's life before and after Harry's death. While the author did her homework on the Houdini's and their rise to stardom, the story did not flow easily and batches of information were somewhat thrown at you in random paragraphs and inserted into scenes where they may or may not have belonged. It threw me ...more
    Dec 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
    NOTE: Received as an ARC for review from Netgalley.

    I didn't know much about Houdini beyond a couple of biopic-type movies and the song from the musical "Ragtime" until this book. I found it interesting that he was confident enough onstage to risk his life night after night, but offstage, desperately needed Bess behind him. The author's research apparently included a biography that quoted Bess extensively, so much so that she used some of the quotes as dialogue for the novel, and I think that ma
    Jul 05, 2016 rated it did not like it
    Harry Houdini was a larger than life figure; his marriage to Bess Houdini has always been, in my mind, one of history's great tragic romances. Yet somehow Victoria Kelly has managed to make both seem petty and small. Now, I'm no expert on the Houdinis -- unless reading Wikipedia, listening to that super epic Kate Bush song, and being literally the only person to watch the show Houdini and Doyle grants one expertise. Nevertheless, Kelly's depiction of the couple felt wildly out of character to me ...more
    Jennifer S. Brown
    Feb 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
    As someone who knows virtually nothing about Harry Houdini and his life, I found this book fascinating. The story is of Bess, the vaudeville performer who marries Harry. The story is told in two time lines--one from when Bess marries Harry and the second of Bess's attempts to contact Harry after his death. I have no idea where the line between fact and fiction lies in this novel, nor did I care, because the story is gripping and I read this quite quickly. A terrifically interesting novel. ...more
    Heather Fineisen
    Oct 14, 2018 rated it liked it
    The spiritualist movement was at its height in the 1920s and the Houdinis were enthralled. This story is an imaginative biographical tale of the magic and the beliefs. Cameo appearances by some famous faces lend authenticity to the era. An interesting chronicle of whether Houdini contacts his wife from the dead as promised.

    Copy provided by the Publisher and NetGalley
    Apr 05, 2018 rated it liked it
    Harry Houdini and his wife, Bess had a pact that if one of them died, they would try to contact the one who lived on. After Harry's death, Bess unsuccessfully tried to find Harry and any messages he might be trying to leave her. This book puts a new spin on the story, asking us to imagine what might have happened if Harry were actually able to break through and communicate with Bess. The end reminded me of a scene from The Shining...a bit creepy, yet satisfying. 👻 ...more
    Sarah (thegirltheycalljones)
    Oct 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
    Shelves: gorgeous-cover
    More like a 3,5 stars.
    I picked this one up because I just learnt that my son shared his birthday with Harry Houdini and I think it's pretty cool. Then I realised I knew fuck all about Harry Houdini except the basics.

    Here comes Mrs Houdini, a book telling the life of Harry and Beth Houdini from Beth's POV.
    You may or may not like the story itself but this book is extremely well documented. I can tell because I actually checked many of the facts to differentiate real events from fiction, and as it
    Jun 08, 2018 rated it liked it
    Shelves: drama
    A story of the hardscrabble beginnings of Houdini and his endless quest to push the envelope of entertainment. The second half turns into the fantastic...maybe a little too much so. However I did like the idea of meeting at a designated place in the next life, and the idea of people past, present and future inhabiting the same world. Perhaps the mystical side of Houdini could have been its own exploration in another book.
    Reviews of  A Shameless Fangirl
    Mar 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
    I have always been fascinated with Harry Houdini, illusionists and spiritualists of that time are incredible individuals, so advanced and intelligent, often beyond their time. I must confess however I did not know a great deal of his story. What little I had witnessed in various film cameos of the character did not really instill a great deal of knowledge.

    So, I went into this story with very little preconceptions and an open mind. I think that helped. Throughout the pages of this tale, the read
    Sep 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
    Recommends it for: everyone
    Recommended to Barbara by: on-line review
    Many years ago when I was a girl of 14 I saw the movie "Houdini". Ever since that time I have had a curiosity about the lives of Bess and Harry Houdini. Victoria Kelly's book "Mrs. Houdini" follows their lives from the moment they first met until both of their deaths. Much of the book deals with Bess trying to find some sort of communication from Harry after his death. He had promised to contact her from the other side. This is a very well-written book. Victoria Kelly has done a lot of research ...more
    Jul 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
    A magical chronicle of the Houdinis early life, and then Bess' quest to connect with Harry again, is the essence of ' Mrs Houdini. A well researched and equally well imagined piece of historical fiction-this tale leaves the reader under the illusion of really knowing Bess & to some extent Harry. I read this 100 year old story in 2 days-a great escape- transporting me back into the glamour, vaudevillian & magical 1900's. ...more
    Casey Laura
    Mar 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
    Absolutely magical ! Very insightful. A part of the roaring 20's I never considered or was invested in. A new woman I aim to read about. A historical romance that was a beautiful read and mystery. The truth is beyond our knowledge but she writes a good story. One can only wonder.... And I think I always shall. ...more
    Apr 11, 2018 marked it as dnf
    I read more than seventy-five pages of this one and just couldn't finish. I think what made it difficult for me is that it felt very self-conscious. If felt like the author had a checklist of what should be included from Houdini's life and each element was placed just so as it was marked done. I am interested in Houdini and his life, but perhaps a non-fiction book would be more engaging. ...more
    Aug 22, 2017 rated it liked it
    I enjoyed the second half of the book more than the first. I found the ultra fast romance at the outset to be off-putting and it didn't make me care about the characters or their relationship early on as I had no investment that early in the book.

    I didn't mind that the book skipped back and forth between time periods, but an editor would have been very helpful, there were too many flashbacks in the 1929 sections that made it confusing. Why bother having chapters in different time periods if you
    Feb 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
    Mrs. Houdini by Victoria Kelly was a very unique and fascinating read. This is a fictional novel detailing the life and times of the late Bess Houdini, including much about her late magician/escape artist/illusionist husband Harry. The author did extensive research on the pair and the era, and it shows brilliantly in the book. It's told in "current day" 1930's fashion with flashbacks starting around the time Bess and Harry first met in 1894. (Ms. Kelly does this so fast it confused me a few time ...more
    Harry Houdini is one of my favorite magicians of all time. I’ve read many biographies, documentaries, and do some of his card tricks to learn more about this eccentric man who seemed larger than life. When I saw that there was going to be a historical fiction novel based on Houdini’s wife, I was excited. Mrs. Houdini is often overshadowed by her elusive husband, and it was refreshing to have her in the spotlight. This novel follows two different timelines. The first timeline is when Mrs. Houdin ...more
    Dec 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
    This was a real find. Bought it for fifty cents at a book sale. Beautifully written, this historical-fiction is an excellent read. Here is a behind the scenes look at the world's most famous magician and escape artist - the great Harry Houdini, as told by the person who knew him best ... his wife, Bess. Tracing their meeting in 1894 through his death in 1926, a gorgeous love story unfolds, revealing intimate details of Houdini's idiosyncracies, superstitions and insecurities that were kept belo ...more
    Jenny Q
    This book just didn't captivate me the way I'd hoped it would. I kept getting distracted by other books, and when I picked it up again, I started skimming to see if I could get into it, and just when I thought it was starting to find its rhythm, it was due back at the library. I may try it again in the future. ...more
    Marisa Gonzalez
    May 20, 2016 rated it it was ok
    Shelves: fiction
    Historical fiction about the wife of Harry Houdini. The story goes back and forth from their life together and her life after his death. The story after his death is fiction. It was very silly and could never happen in real life. I wish it would have focused more on their life together. I don't recommend this one. ...more
    Aug 02, 2017 rated it liked it
    I have long been fascinated by Harry Houdini and his life, so when a friend lent me this book, I jumped at the chance to read it. It seems to be well-researched, with lots of good information (perhaps too much at times) and was an easy read. As other reviewers have mentioned, though, I struggled to get into the story and found it difficult to relate to the characters.
    Alison Smith
    Apr 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
    This book is really well-written. I especially liked how the chapters went back and forth from Bess Houdini's present day to the early days of her relationship with Harry Houdini. The story leaves me wanting to know more about the magician and master illusionist and his wife.

    Well-written and very interesting. I loved how the author handles the question of Harry's communication with Bess - publicly unsuccessful/privately full of hope and love. ...more
    Honestly I think I would have liked this better had the formatting been clearer. It was a constant jump from past to present in the book and not a clear divide of where each one was.
    Also, I had a hard time really connecting with Bess and on the whole, wasn’t that impressed. Still a decent read but more like not the right book for me.
    Sarah {The Bookish Knitter}
    3.5 Stars

    AMMP: Halloween At Amusement Parks: #6. Halloweekends - Cedar Point - Ohio
    Fall Into Reading Challenge: Standalone
    Rachel Chiapparine
    I picked up this book in soft-cover from (I paid for it myself). My personal review of the book is as follows:

    I really enjoyed the detail depth and complexity of the love story between Harry and Bess, I don't want to say anything more and give too much away, the only thing that kept me personally from really getting into the story was the time jumps. I understand from a storyline prospective why they were nesscery(the ending explains why) however I personally felt like this would
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    Play Book Tag: Mrs. Houdini, by Victoria Kelly, 5 stars 6 13 Jul 05, 2019 08:13AM  

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    Victoria Kelly is the author of four books of fiction and poetry, including the novel Mrs. Houdini and the poetry collection When the Men Go Off to War.

    She graduated Summa Cum Laude from Harvard University and received her M.F.A. from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

    Her fiction and poetry have appeared in Best American Poetry, The Autumn House Anthology of Contemporary American Poetry, Prairie Schoone

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