What a romp!
Amy Stewart's first foray into fiction is a lot of fun. Just the kind of book I like, too - one based on an actual incident and real people.
In 1914, a car driven by a silk factory owner named Henry Kaufman ran into a buggy with the three single Kopp sisters in it. They weren't hurt, but the oldest, 35-year-old Constance, asks Kaufman to pay $50 to repair the buggy. Henry and his band of thugs instead race away, and later harass and threaten the sisters with bricks thrown through the windows of their isolated farm, and even a fire. The local sheriff ended up giving the women revolvers and taught them how to shoot.
Stewart ups the suspense with subplots about a secret in the sisters' past (fortunately revealed pretty quickly), and a completely fictional factory worker also being harassed by the factory owner.
According to an interview, Stewart got the idea for the book while researching for her previous one, The Drunken Botanist (self-described by Stewart as "a book about booze," which I now want to read). She was checking old newspapers for information about a gin smuggler named Henry Kaufman, and found numerous articles about the silk manufacturer's interactions with the Kopp sisters (maybe he was the same guy?). Constance, who was six feet tall, particularly intrigued her.
In a post for Ancestry.com's blog, Stewart said she used the site, as well as city halls, courthouses, cemeteries, historical societies, and libraries, to piece together the Kopp family and to find descendants, who provided even more information.
The book title comes from a headline of a story that appeared in numerous newspapers of the time. The novel is a bit long and drags in parts, and ends rather abruptly - setting up for a sequel that Stewart acknowledges she is writing. I will definitely be reading that.
© Amanda Pape - 2015
[I received this advance reader's edition through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program. I might keep it for a while and then pass it on to someone else to enjoy.]
|from The Evening Times (Pawtucket, Rhode Island), |
November 23, 1914, page 13
|On her website, Stewart describes this as "a classic (if not|
terribly accurate) newspaper illustration from the Kaufman case."