Saturday, March 20, 2010

154 & 155 (2010 #s 19 & 20). Nonfiction by/about Ann Eliza Webb Dee Young Denning

Wife No. 19 by Ann Eliza Young and
The Twenty-seventh Wife by Irving Wallace

The first of these is a memoir by the infamous 19th (or 27th, but probably 52nd) wife of Brigham Young, second "prophet" and leader of the Mormon Church, originally published in 1875. The second is a biography of her by Irving Wallace published in 1961. After reading The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff, I wanted to read these two books as they were major sources for his novel.

Ann Eliza's memoir was a sensation when she wrote it, as she was already famous from the series of lectures she'd been giving about polygamy after filing for divorce from Brigham Young, her second of three husbands. As can be expected, her accounting when talking about Brigham is going to be biased, but she's accurate about her life growing up in a polygamous household, and one can see where Ebershoff followed her memoir and where he took creative license with the story.

Wallace's biography is valuable because it presents a more balanced view of Brigham Young (as well as of Ann's first husband, James Dee), plus it tells what happened to Ann and other members of her family after her memoir was published. Ann revised her memoir and republished it in 1908 (under the title Life in Mormon Bondage), but even then she did not mention her third marriage to (and divorce from) Moses Denning. Wallace's book has extensive acknowledgments and bibliography; I only wish it had footnotes or in-text citations connecting to those sources.

[These books were borrowed through interlibrary loan, and go back tomorrow.]

© Amanda Pape - 2010

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