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Raised in a crumbling New England mansion by four women with personalities as split as a cracked mirror, young Francis Grayson has an obsessive need to fix them all. There's his mother, distant and beautiful Magdalene; his disfigured, suffocating Aunt Stella; his odious grandmother; and the bane of his existence, ...
Raised in a crumbling New England mansion by four women with personalities as split as a cracked mirror, young Francis Grayson has an obsessive need to fix them all. There's his mother, distant and beautiful Magdalene; his disfigured, suffocating Aunt Stella; his odious grandmother; and the bane of his existence, his abusive and delusional Aunt Lothian. For years, Francis plays a tricky game of duck and cover with the women, turning to music to stay sane. He finds a friend and mentor in Aidan Madsen, schoolmaster, local Revolutionary War historian, musician and keeper of the Grayson women's darkest secrets. In a skillful move by Fullbright, those secrets are revealed through the viewpoints of three different people-Aidan, Francis and Francis'stepdaughter, Elyse-adding layers of eloquent complexity to a story as powerful as it is troubling. While Francis realizes his dream of forming his own big band in the 1940s, his success is tempered by the inner monster of his childhood, one that roars to life when he marries Elyse's mother. Elyse becomes her stepfather's favorite target, and her bitterness becomes entwined with a desire to know the real Francis Grayson. For Aidan's part, his involvement with the Grayson family only deepens, and secrets carried for a lifetime begin to coalesce as he seeks to enlighten Francis-and subsequently Elyse-of why the events of so many years ago matter now. The ugliness of deceit. betrayal and resentment permeates the narrative, yet there are shining moments of hope, especially in the relationship between Elyse and her grandfather. Ultimately, as more of the past filters into the present, the question becomes: What is the truth, and whose version of the truth is correct? Fullbright never untangles this conundrum, and it only adds to the richness of this exemplary novel.
A superb debut that exposes the consequences of the choices we make and legacy's sometimes excruciating embrace.
Posted May 23, 2013
The Angry Woman Suite is the story of a small American town, the intricately interwoven lives of the Graysons, the Waterstons and Aiden Marsden (a teacher) and at a distance the combined family of Wilheim Lange and the Bowdens. In the background the Second World War and the Big Band era. The novel is a very powerful study in evil, the choices the characters make and the mystery of American culture.
Reading The Angry Woman Suite is like being caught in the heat of a Summer afternoon in the South with mint julep drinks, inside the powerful intrigues of a small American town. The story takes place in the 1900's, particularly in the 1930's and `40's with World War II and the big band era in the background and unfolding through generations into the 1960's. It is well written, each sentence in cadence and easily draws the reader in. An entangled story of people and families, the novel unfolds through the first person voice of 3 people Elyse, her step-father Francis Grayson and a friend of the Grayson family who is a teacher, Aiden. The story begins from the point of view of the children (Elyse and Francis as children) and it is enchanting to see their motivations, their view of the adults as if they are born into a great mystery and how they grow to understand, a coming of age story.
Elyse's Papa, her mother's father-in-law is somewhat conscious, he tells the child the world is a place of games, people are playing games, there are winners and losers and how to discern the "game". This Papa plasters everything ceilings, walls, and bare spaces with large yellow cabbage roses and besides the children I found him the most likable character. Francis, the son of Magdalene and a child of the Grayson household is raised by his grandmother, his mother and her sisters who take out their angst at love lost on the child, he wishes he could fix them and then he would live. Born into Biloxi Blues, he is physically abused by one of his aunts, he finds respite in music and becomes a famous Big Band musician (who also physically abuses his step-daughter Elyse). Aiden, the school teacher and friend of the family first helps raise Magdalene and her sisters and then Jamie, Earl and Francis, particularly helping Francis put the pieces of his life together and helps Elyse.
The plots and characters have many twists and turns, it is also a story of lost innocence, a story of unconscious violence, as evil as unconscious and America the dream/the nightmare. In the background is the idea of war, 2 World Wars, Vietnam and the Revolutionary War; a scuffle with the British, the Battle of Brandywine that the town lost; the history lives in the Museum curated by Aiden. It is a painful recounting, the physical abuse of the 2 main characters as children and the deaths of Mathew Waterston (the artist) and his wife, Earl, Bean, the suicide of Lear Grayson (Francis' grandfather), the insanity of Lothian (Francis' aunt), and Stella (Francis' aunt), the disease of Huntington's that strikes Jamie.
The story is full of intrigue and the brokenness of life, betrayal in love, the violence this manifests, as if the world never quite possesses itself. "Stories, history - both are about power. Who gets it who gets to keep it, who loses it." And the novel rings with truisms and mystery in psychological drama that is often unsettling as the characters veer away from their woundedness to either create more woundedness or more rarely healing. "Which is why I think we so often play hide and seek with the truth, don't you think? Choosing to build and believe in our own castles in the sky instead - I mean, it's a whole lot less painful than getting hurt by people who love you and you love back."
It is reminiscent of John Steinbeck's East of Eden, the small town in America, the story of the 2 families, the Hamilton's and the Trask's - how Adam raises his sons Caleb and Aron, the hidden dialectic of evil and how Steinbeck draws the line with the words "thou mayest" as if evil is a choice, when grounded in cultural and spiritual tenets, evil or redemption is a choice. The Angry Woman Suite never quite draws this line but instead revers the life of the artist in music, painting and writing - art as redemption. Disturbing and brilliant, a fascinating read.
By Rebecca Ann Banks
Posted September 16, 2012
The Angry Woman Suite by Lee Fullbright
Release Date: March 10th, 2012
Publisher: Telemachus Press
Page Count: 366
Source: Complimentary copy provided by publicist, Little Bird Publicity, in exchange for an honest an unbiased review
What Stephanie Thinks: They say there are multiple sides to every story, but what do you do when you hear all of them at once? How do you know which one to believe?
The Angry Woman Suite introduces us to our three tragic heros: Elyse, a young girl who's always just wanted to know to love and be loved; Francis, her stepfather, who's always been too good, too good for even himself; and Aidan, confidante to both Elyse and Francis, the epitome of both wisdom and weakness. Readers are exposed to Elyse's terrifying and beseeching childhood, and the even-more disturbing upbringing of Francis, which allows us to understand how he has turned out the way he is, and just how that might affect his future. The different perspectives are fascinating to stick with and attempt to unravel. What makes this book stand out the most is that we don't only have an unreliable narrator; we've got three.
Elyse's story is the most believable just because her voice is so fresh, so wholesome, and it revolves around the confusion and uncertainty — and horror — she's felt ever since Francis came into her life. Francis's is even rawer and even more shocking, but it seems to be influenced greatly by his histrionics, which is plausible given how he is portrayed by both Elyse and Aidan. Aidan's is rather mellow, at least at first, but it ends up being the most deceitful, the most revealing, of all. He's such a sage, experienced character... or so we think. It was interesting to watch each character develop as time passed and memories faded.
Oftentimes I found the story's progression confusing because of the different situations and time periods of each narrator. Dates are included at the beginning of each chapter, but it still is hard to untangle the three separate storylines from each other. Too many characters are introduced in the beginning at once, which also contributes to the cloudiness of the plot initially. However, where The Angry Woman Suite is nebulous in structure, it is equally excellent in style. Fullbright has a tender, glimmering voice who knows how to portray each narrator differently, but still very vividly. I found myself being able to relate to each of the main characters, sympathizing with one, then contradicting myself by feeling for another.
A warning would be the book's heavy themes of child abuse. I personally found it tough reading through the more difficult scenes, but the topic is one I am intrigued by in fiction, and therefore could really appreciate. It may make some queasy.
The Angry Woman Suite would probably classify as a mystery, one that involves clandestine family histories, twisted relationships, pretense, ill timing, and a certain ironic sense of tragedy. The constantly swirling questions definitely made this one hard to put down, but at the same time, I was a bit turned off by the length (it dragged on at times) and the disorganized compilation. The characters however, are so real, so crude, that they, as well as their deepest of secrets and greatest of fears, will definitely resonate with readers who give them a try.
Stephanie Loves: "'They need to be exercised, hearts do ... to keep them strong.'"
Radical Rating: 8 hearts: An engaging read; highly recommended.
Posted September 9, 2012
This was such an interesting book to read from the first page to the very last. The author has such a unique way of telling the story and creating characters who like the book itself came to us slow as not to reveal everything about them at once.
At first I was a little unsure of the book and it wasn't until the 75 page mark that I really felt like the book had it it's stride. Prior to that I was a little lost and confused with how the story was being told and had to go back and re-read some parts to make sure I got all the information.
The way in which the story is told in alternating points of view between Aiden, Elyse and Francis so at times even after I got into the book that I had to stop and get my bearing again. I think what I liked most about the characters was that each of them brought something new and interesting to the table and they were all so different it was as though they were real people.
I also really enjoyed the careful attention to detail that the author took in making her scenes and descriptions seem as authentic as they were. Though I wouldn't really classify this as a historical novel it is set between 1900 and 1960. You can really tell that the author took a lot of care when she was writing and I think that is commendable. I dislike reading books that are set in another time where the authors don't do their fair share of researching to make things as accurate as they can and it is that careful attitude about the creation of her characters and descriptive writing style that made this such a successful novel.
I enjoyed the fact that there were so many different facets to the book. Like I said when I first started the book I was unsure of what to make of it but when Francis's past started unwinding and I learned more about him and what happened to him during his life as well as those of Adrian and Elyse things started to make more and more sense. What surprised me the most about the novel though was that it could actually be quiet dark and bleak in places and I suppose I expected this one to be a little lighter than it was.
All in all this was an enjoyable read. I can see why it won an award because the writer is exceptionally talented. She has a voice that is unique to her and she really was able to bring me into her novel and make me want to read more. I do have to say though that this is probably a book best read in snippets. I read my copy in a couple days but I can honestly say that I'm going have to go back and re-read just to make sure I caught everything. If you enjoy historical fiction set in the 1900's with a darker mysterious twist I highly recommend checking this one out it's 100% worth it.
*I received a free copy in exchange for my free and honest review. I was not compensated in any way and all thoughts and opinions expressed therein are my own.
Posted September 5, 2012
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The Angry Woman Suite is an unexpected novel. Most authors shy away from having more than one protagonist. Lee Fullbright has three.
This different take actually works which I found surprising, as I have rarely come across a book where that tactic doesn’t lead to confusion and chaos for the reader.
The supporting characters are not forgotten and are fleshed out just enough to not only make them interesting but integral to the story.
It is a disturbing novel. This is one of the most venomous families I have ever come across. How they tear each other down is Machiavellian in extremis. But it is compelling.
I found it a difficult novel at times to read. Not because of the writing. Lee Fullbright has eloquently detailed a time and a family in a way that makes it no surprise this book has won the 2012 Indie Reader Discovery Award for Literary Fiction.
It is not a novel to be read for light enjoyment…though enjoyment comes because of the articulate and fluent prose that weaves together the three protagonists’ lives in a tapestry of torment and deceit.
What I loved most about this book was the fact that I found it difficult to put any one character in the good or bad box. Their complicated personalities had you hating them one moment and sympathizing with them the next. For me as a writer it is one of the most difficult tasks. So I appreciate it when I find authors who are able to do this. No villain is completely bad and neither are the good guys what they seem.
My only problem with this book is the ending.
To quote my favourite TV show: “Endings are hard!”
I felt that Lee, in trying to tie up the loose ends and leave you with a sense of completeness, only left me wondering. I finished the book unsure of why it all happened.
That said…Lee Fullbright is a writer I want to read more of in the future.
Posted August 31, 2012
I love novels that span generations and focus on one family. Lee Fullbright delivers a suspenseful tale through the voices of characters in The Angry Woman Suite. Spanning history between the early 1900’s and into the 1960’s we get an inside look at a dysfunctional family and its secrets.
The story is told through the voices of Elyse, Francis’s stepdaughter, Francis himself and a friend of the family Aidan Madsen. The tale weaves back and forth from past to present as we learn the chilling story of Francis Grayson, his family and a painting known as the Angry Woman Suite. As we travel through the generations, and hear their story we begin to put together the mysteries and unravel the Grayson family’s dark secrets. The tale that unfolds is enthralling, filled with twists, painful memories and shocking discoveries.
The characters in Fullbright’s novel come to life in all of their flawed glory. The three main narrators were beautifully fleshed out and my emotions for them changed as the tale unfolded. Each is twisted or warped by the life they have led, each seeks something and felt genuine and believable. Elyse was my favorite voice, I just loved the voice the author gave her. My feelings for Francis changed as the tale progressed. His childhood was chilling and he is a very talented musician. Aidan provides a somewhat unbiased view of the family and his story was fascinating. The Grayson family is a colorful, dysfunctional bunch and I became completely engrossed in their twisted lives. All of the characters we meet in the novel impact the tale and steer the reader towards solving the mystery and I found them to be interesting.
When the novel first starts, I felt confused, and it took me a little while to get acclimated to the author’s writing style and the timeline. Thankfully each chapter has one narrator, and offers a perceptive from their memories. Once I got into the tale, I was able to follow the flow and the time travel weaved together well. Fullbright beautifully paints the world and the people residing in it. I felt like I stepped back in time to the 1900’s. A lot of the secrets and Francis childhood reflect the society they lived in and she accurately portrays this. The tale takes some dark turns and some made me uncomfortable. Some parts of the story and characters felt a little out of place for me, and I wondered if they were really needed. The characters have depth and the author does a wonderful job of fleshing them out. Fullbright shows the consequences of both reacting and not reacting to events throughout the novel. These decisions affected not only one generation but the generation of those to come. I read this novel in the span of about a week. For me I would read a few chapters and then reflect on them before moving forward. I want to thank the author for providing a finished copy in exchange for my unbiased review.
Posted August 26, 2012
Posted August 22, 2012
The Angry Woman Suite by Lee Fullbright is a suspense novel that is told
by three different narrators, Elyse, Francis, and Aiden in three
different time frames. I honestly think that this suspense novel is in a
category all its own as it is suspense, mystery, history, romance, and
even a little comedy (I found myself laughing and saying, "No
way!" or "OMG...too funny!") all rolled in to one. I
started to read it last night and had to stay up and finish the book.
Excellent read!! Hat's off to Lee!!
Posted May 31, 2012
Reviewed by Alice D. for Readers Favorite
Elyse Bowden Grayson is not a quiet, reserved child. She yells, has temper tantrums and her stepfather, Francis Grayson, punishes her and his scoldings are often harsh. But then Francis claims he was abused while growing up with his much older brother, mother, grandmother and two strange aunts in the old Grayson mansion near Brandywine Creek in Pennsylvania. Francis' mother is the beautiful Magdalene Grayson who posed in the years just before World War I for the famous American artist Matthew Waterston, in ten now highly valuable paintings referred to as "The Angry Woman Suite." Magdalene is always loved by Aiden Madsen, the local schoolmaster and caretaker of Brandywine historical materials, but it is Matthew's concert pianist son, James Witherspoon Waterston, who is Francis' father. James (or Jamie) is noted for his musical abilities and Francis does carry on his musical gifts for a while as an innovative band leader of the 1940's, until he is overcome by alcoholism and instability. How does marrying Elyse and sister Bean's mother, Diana, figure into the complex lives of Francis Grayson and his family?
"The Angry Woman Suite" is a brilliant, complex, complicated story about talented, complicated people. As Elyse's beloved grandfather, Papa, says, "Life is like a ship, sometimes it blows forward, sometimes backward. But when you think your life is sinking, someone rows into the harbor and tosses oranges onto your deck." This fascinating story tells of intertwined lives, some of whom survive while some do not. The characters in "The Angry Woman Suite" are well-created; neurotic tendencies, birth defects, and all. The plot is well-developed and leaves the reader with the clear understanding that creative gifts, position in society, and heritage don't guarantee a life of clear sailing. This is a story to remember!
Posted May 31, 2012
Reviewed by Joana James for Readers Favorite
"The Angry Woman Suite" is quite a ride. Set in the early 1900s, it is a story of family conflict, mystery, drama and love. Young Francis Grayson grows up with a slew of women referred to merely as “the women,” consisting of two aunts and a grandmother. Unfortunately, Francis is subjected to abuse at their hands. Young Francis does not know much about his history and even the true identity of his father is kept from him. Elyse, Francis' stepdaughter, tells the story from her point of view in a rather compelling manner. A third narrator is history buff and schoolmaster, Aiden Madsen, who also plays the roles of music teacher and friend to young Francis. Francis is talented, something that runs in the family, but he lets his desire for fame get the best of him.
Filled with deceit, outright lies, anger and resentment, this book is very cleverly written, with different points of view bringing unique perspectives to the story. The characters are fully developed and easy to understand, and as the story comes together one finds oneself empathizing, loving and sometimes even hating them. The novel is quite a trip through time as the characters tell history as they see it. It seems that each character is on a quest for truth. It is hard to decipher whose version is correct, but this adds to the flavour of the whole novel. This is quite an outstanding novel and I recommend it with no reservations.
Posted May 31, 2012
Reviewed by Anne B. for Readers Favorite
"The Angry Woman Suite" is the story of a “sick” family. Francis Grayson is born in Pennsylvania in 1928. He throws wild outbursts, almost to the point of calling them fits. He eventually becomes violent to the point of abusing Elyse, his stepdaughter. Elyse keeps asking herself why he’d hit her, and who was this man, her stepfather? Francis seems unable to take responsibility for anything; it is easier to blame the women who raised him for the miserable aspects of his life. His goal in life is music. He is sure that if he makes it as a musician he can leave all his troubles behind. Aiden Madsen is his guide, mentor, teacher, confidant and confessor.
The title of this book instantly caught my attention. Before I opened the book I was already speculating on its significance. I soon discovered that the title stems from a group of paintings. The plot starts out a bit subdued and slowly gains momentum. When an author weaves a story back and forth between narrators it brings depth to the story, for each point of view will be slightly skewed; this is especially true in this book, where the author not only uses three narrators but allows each to speak in varied time frames. Elyse Grayson, Frances Grayson, and Aiden Madsen are the narrators in "The Angry Woman Suite." This tale is character-driven, and Lee Fullbright is master of characterization. His characters are multi-dimensional. There were times when I didn’t like them and yet I found myself drawn to them as they were certainly never dull. It was very difficult to believe this is a debut novel; Fullbright writes like a more seasoned author.
Posted April 9, 2012
This was an emotionally profound and richly textured story of the complexities of families and the consequences to current and future generations. Using narrators from three generations and adding historical references was a brilliant concept. This book was hard to put down and the author keeps you guessing right up to the end about the mystery of the Angry Woman Suite. Bring on more of Elyse.....Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.