A White Room

( 6 )

Overview

At the close of the Victorian Era, society still expected middle-class women to be "the angels of the house," even as a select few strived to become something more. In this time of change, Emeline Evans dreamed of becoming a nurse. But when her father dies unexpectedly, Emeline sacrifices her ambitions and rescues her family from destitution by marrying John Dorr, a reserved lawyer who can provide for her family.

John moves Emeline to the remote Missouri town of Labellum and ...

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Overview

At the close of the Victorian Era, society still expected middle-class women to be "the angels of the house," even as a select few strived to become something more. In this time of change, Emeline Evans dreamed of becoming a nurse. But when her father dies unexpectedly, Emeline sacrifices her ambitions and rescues her family from destitution by marrying John Dorr, a reserved lawyer who can provide for her family.

John moves Emeline to the remote Missouri town of Labellum and into an unusual house where her sorrow and uneasiness edge toward madness. Furniture twists and turns before her eyes, people stare out at her from empty rooms, and the house itself conspires against her. The doctor diagnoses hysteria, but the treatment merely reinforces the house's grip on her mind.

Emeline only finds solace after pursuing an opportunity to serve the poor as an unlicensed nurse. Yet in order to bring comfort to the needy she must secretly defy her husband, whose employer viciously hunts down and prosecutes unlicensed practitioners. Although women are no longer burned at the stake in 1900, disobedience is a symptom of psychological defect, and hysterical women must be controlled.

A novel of madness and secrets, A White Room presents a fantastical glimpse into the forgotten cult of domesticity, where one's own home could become a prison and a woman has to be willing to risk everything to be free.

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Editorial Reviews

Ph.D. U.S. Womens History, University of San Diego - Eileen Walsh
“The best historical fiction makes you forget it’s fiction and forget it’s historical. Reminiscent of The Yellow Wallpaper … the thoughtful, intricate story Carroll relates is absolutely mesmerizing.”
author of The Plume Hunter and The Bridge at Valentine - Renée Thompson
“A novel of grit, independence, and determination ... An intelligent story, well told.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780988867406
  • Publisher: Unhinged Books
  • Publication date: 6/12/2013
  • Pages: 408
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.91 (d)

Meet the Author

As a reporter and community editor, Stephanie Carroll earned first place awards from the National Newspaper Association and from the Nevada Press Association. Stephanie holds degrees in history and social science. She graduated summa cum laude from California State University, Fresno.

Her dark and magical writing is inspired by the classic authors Charlotte Perkins Gilman (The Yellow Wallpaper), Frances Hodgson Burnett (The Secret Garden), and Emily Bronte (Wuthering Heights).

Stephanie blogs and writes fiction in California, where her husband is stationed with the U.S. Navy. Her website is www.stephaniecarroll.net.

A White Room is her debut novel.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 6 )
Rating Distribution

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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 17, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Madness whispers in 'A White Room Note: I requested this book f

    Madness whispers in 'A White Room

    Note: I requested this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 
    As a general rule, I stay away from books that are considered "scary" because I have a very active imagination. It's been over ten years since I read Helter Skelter and I still have to leave the lights on at night when I think about the creepy crawling. So I'm a bit surprised to find that I enjoyed A White Room so much because it had a similar effect.




    The book is essentially two stories about the same protagonist, Emeline. After the untimely death of her father, Emeline gives up her dreams of becoming a nurse and marries a family friend named John Dorr because it's the practical thing to do. Upon their marriage, they move from the big city of St. Louis to Labellum, Missouri: population tiny. Living in a steal of a house that's dark, dreary, and downright depressing, Emeline's isolation begins to take a psychological toll on her. Luckily (or unluckily), the Dorr's live in a town with only one doctor and there is a huge need for basic healthcare. Although it is illegal, Emeline begins to emerge from isolation and heal herself by tending to those in need.




    Fans of The Yellow Wallpaper will love this debut from Stephanie Carroll because it's about a woman feeling her house is alive and that other people are living in it. I, for one, couldn't put the book down but was also reading with the covers up to my chin and all of the lights on. It's not because the book is scary but because I could absolutely understand why Emeline was losing it. I could have sworn that my own walls were watching me and I had horrible flashbacks from the movie "House on Haunted Hill" when the girl looks through the camera lens to see the ghosts staring back at her. 




    Aside from that particular image, I could not put the book down. Carroll's portrayal of a woman going stir-crazy was written in a way that made her thoughts and visions completely rational. I didn't think Emeline was hysterical, but rather I pitied her for being in a situation that was probably pretty common at the time (1900). Plus, the second half of the book that pertained to nursing had just enough detail for me to think that the author really did her research. While this book is technically considered gothic Victorian fiction, it's very approachable and not at all what I had expected. I love being pleasantly surprised!

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  • Posted July 2, 2013

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    Emma is a victim of circumstance. When her father dies, as the e

    Emma is a victim of circumstance. When her father dies, as the eldest daughter, she is left to make a hard choice – watch her mother and family be turned out of their home destitute or marry the son of a neighboring family who can keep her and her family from severe poverty. She chooses the latter and makes the proposal to her future groom’s parents. Much to her surprise, her proposal is accepted and she soon finds herself married to John Dorr and swept away to a new location to start her new life.




    She is shocked when she arrives at her new home. It is a forbidding home filled with horrible, tacky décor. The only room that is somewhat pleasing is her white bedroom. Nothing is as it seems however as she struggles to find her way out of a loveless marriage, an unfriendly circle of women, and an altogether isolated existence. Emma finds her relief in helping cure others – actions banned by the law and one which her lawyer husband works towards prosecuting.    




    The White Room is a historical novel that delves into the difficulties women faced in Victorian and Edwardian times. It was a time when women were banned from working. Their only roles were to be wife or mothers. If unhappy, they often faced accusations of illness or madness. They were completely and utterly subjected to the rule of men backed up by the laws of the land. Through Emma, we see the drudgery of housework, the unrelenting menial demands, and the inability to break routine to pursue dreams and aspirations. Author Stephanie Carroll’s writing allows the reader to hurt along with the protagonist because of the injustice. 
    Although the message and moral of this story is strong, it comes through a rather intricate, interesting plot. The heroine is likeable, doing what she can to break free of what is causing her distress. Yet there is much for her to be victorious about. And I loved the happy ending…




    The valuable content, depth, strong message, accurate historical details, and fascinating storyline make this a wonderful gothic style book. A great summer read and highly recommended. 

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  • Posted June 28, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Stephanie Carroll is a debut author with much to say in terms of

    Stephanie Carroll is a debut author with much to say in terms of the treatment and sufferings of women in the late Victorian age. While her book doesn't fall specifically in the category of "women's literature," per se, it could be categorized that way if it were read in college classrooms. I found it persuasive in terms of the plight of women in that Age. It was good reading and held my attention throughout the story.

    The plot is well-developed, and the storyline is one that engenders sympathy on behalf of the main character, Emeline, who is a young woman caught in a seemingly loveless, arranged marriage. We are drawn in to her increasing guilt and madness as she struggles to make sense of her "captivity" in boredom and disconnection with her husband. Ms Carroll does a fine job of describing her descent into this sort of insanity, and then her climbing out of it as she finds meaning in her life. There is a surprise ending that pulls the story together!

    If there were one short-coming to point out in her writing, I would have to say I found the dialog stilted at times. This is probably a symptom of it being a first novel. It didn't take away from the meat of the book, but is something I would mention only because it was evident especially in the beginning. I easily pushed past it and it became less noticeable as the story progressed.

    All in all, this is a well-imagined book with a strong story behind it. It's reminiscent of "The Yellow Wallpaper," but takes a similar story to a broader perspective and to a wonderful conclusion. I think Ms Carroll is a writer with great potential, and one I look forward to reading again.

    I recommend this book to all who enjoy women's fiction with a bent toward feminism. It's a strong historical fiction with a blistering story of an unusual woman's life in the late Victorian era, as I've said.

    Fast-paced and intelligent, this is one you'll find very thought-provoking. A good read for everyone!

    5 stars Deborah/TheBookishDame

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  • Posted June 27, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Initially I was drawn to the historical fiction aspects of the s

    Initially I was drawn to the historical fiction aspects of the story, and a woman’s struggle to fit within the confines of societal expectations and her own desires.  What emerges is a story so rich in both imagery and personal struggle, layered with dramatic events, and a lead character that is both empathetic and deeply flawed. 




    Carroll created a heroine that will tug at your heartstrings, with her desires for more than a ‘conventional’ life in the early1900’s, for a woman of an upper-middle class household.  College educated Emeline is hoping to go to nursing school and live an independent life; until the death of her father reveals greatly reduced circumstances and the fear of penury for her family.  A promise to ‘take care’ of her family leads her into a situation of sacrifice: she barters her singlehood for marriage and security for her family. 




    I loved Emeline’s use of the metaphor of A White Room: the expectations of society, responsibilities and convention all conspire to keep her contained within an all-white room, where color and personal choice are an anathema and may bring the walls down to crush her.  Far from being bright and light, there was an ominous sense of a loss of self, and a lack of color in the room and her life corresponded to the darkness and shadows brought on by her own depression.  Her retreat into imagination was understandable, and supremely well documented, the instant belief that she was in the grips of hysterical madness, and the continual threat of that diagnosis of madness being used to contain and constrain her was both true to the time and an interesting plot device.  Where Emeline had an interesting core of strength of character: she was a woman of her time, and the threat of discovery and containment were frightening to her. What could have been used to stall the story and find her forays into her own imaginings becoming a permanent state of affairs, she found that the needs of others overrode her own concerns and responsibilities, and she moves forward despite the potential for discovery and disgrace. 




    The author mentions her influences in literature, from Charlotte Perkins Gilman to Frances Hodgson Burnett and Emily Bronte: and I found that there were elements that captured the feel of those author’s books in a very positive sense.  The otherworldliness of Burnett came forward in the parlor and the woods, lushly imagined spaces with features that could change from gloriously quirky to malevolent in moments.  The inner turmoil and imaginative inner thoughts of Emmaline that were similar to those of Bronte heroine Jane Eyre, and the obsession so well noted in Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper.  All three of these elements worked together in a very unique way to detail and define the world that Emeline saw, and provided the reader with easy imagery and a sense of familiarity in the unfamiliar world of the early 1900’s.  




    This was one of those books that was satisfying on many levels: historically, the plight of Emeline, the friendships and ultimately the relationships and personal growth.  Stephanie Carroll has crafted a novel with so many things to enjoy for readers of all persuasions.




    I received a copy of the book from the publisher via NetGalley. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility. 

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  • Posted June 25, 2013

    What if you had to sacrifice your hopes, your dreams, so your fa

    What if you had to sacrifice your hopes, your dreams, so your family can be helped?  Would you marry a stranger?   Would you move away from family and friends and start new?   Could you live in a creepy house that was driving you to the brink of insanity?  What will send you completely over the edge, or what will be the turning point to bring you back around?

    Take a journey with Emeline Dorr and her newfound marriage.  Enjoy her new life, her new friends, her new home.

    I had my moments when I thought I could not take the house any longer, but am very glad that I did not leave Emeline until the last page.  I hope you will enjoy this book as much as I did, I thought it was superb!!!
    ?

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  • Posted June 15, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    By: Stephanie Carroll Unhinged Books Emeline Dorr has a problem

    By: Stephanie Carroll
    Unhinged Books

    Emeline Dorr has a problem. A loveless marriage, inability to be accepted in society, and now her home is starting to turn against her. After her father passed away, and her mother squandered whatever money was left on his funeral, Emeline had no choice but to marry into money in order to keep her family from ruin. But actions always bring consequences. A marriage based on circumstance brings unseen challenges that threaten the very fabric of her sanity. Is it possible that a well bred woman at the turn of the 20th century can find her place in society, a lasting love, and a purpose in life - all at the same time?

    This is a very different book from ones that I have reviewed before.  A White Room is a historical fiction novel set in 1901 and, though far outside my particular tastes, Carroll pulled it off quite well. There were plenty of times that I found myself connecting with the main character and feeling with her.  If all Historical Fiction novels were like this one, I would read more Historical Fiction.

    The writing is far from amateur and, being that this is Carroll's first foray into writing a full fledged novel, that is incredibly refreshing. I have, unfortunately, been witness to established, published writers penning novels that a sixth-grader could improve upon. This offering is vastly different. Carroll's writing style draws the reader into the story. Though a first-person narrative (I don't care for first-person), I found the plot to be well thought out and executed.

    As for the story itself, it follows a young woman who has to marry for duty, not love. She finds herself trapped in a marriage of inconvenience, both for herself and (seemingly) those around her. Everything she touches to fall to pieces and she can't quite to figure out how to stop the spiral that is swallowing her whole.

    I mentioned earlier that I don't care for historical fiction, but I found the story engaging and there were a few times I simply couldn't put my e-reader down.

    I, for one, certainly hope that the challenges Carroll faces in getting recognition are overcome.  A White Room is, by far, a quality read for anyone.  Get. This. Book!

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