Ian Mapp's Reviews > The 19th Wife

The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff
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's review
Apr 24, 2009

it was ok

** spoiler alert ** 600 pages and another book that would have received a higher rating, if only it could have been edited a little. The initial premise works well, but it just drags on and on.

This is a classic time shift tale about the Mormon communities and plural marriages.... in the present, we have Jordon (who has escaped the clutches) investigating his mothers arrest for the murder of his father. She is Wife 19 and in the time shift, we have the foundations of the latter day saints discussed through the marriage and divorce of Eliza Brigham to the sects prophet.

All this works nicely and there are loads of alternative texts from a student investigating the history, to biographies, to newspaper articles and a couple of inexplicable pictures that seem to have just appeared randomly for some reason.

The problem with the books is that there is not enough drama or suspense to justify the length. Ultimately, the investigations are mundane (no she didnt kill him, it was a mormon couple opposed to multiple marriages who were being forced into it that did).

The characterisation is ok, Jordon, for some reason is gay. He takes a lover (tom, hotel manager) for no other apparant reason than it gives him a place to stay rent free and he befriends another runaway, who again adds nothing to the story.

It works as an education exercise and if shorter would have worked as a drama/thriller. Just too damn long.
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