The Angry Woman Suite Reviewed By Norm Goldman of Bookpleasures.com
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Author: Lee Fullbright
Publisher: Telemachus Press
Lee Fullbright's elegantly written debut novel, The Angry Woman Suite gradually gathers force as you read it: a slowly unfolding picture of a talented musician, Francis Grayson, whose life was very much shaped by a genetic predisposition that would affect his health and his family's horrific secrets forcing them to confront the unthinkable and sickening events that shape their history.
Francis was born in 1928 and grew up in a dysfunctional family in a historic area of Pennsylvania where, during the American Revolution, under the leadership of George Washington, the rebels had lost the Battle of Brandywine to the British forcing them to withdraw toward the rebel capital of Philadelphia.
Fullbright spins her complex tale concerning the demons that possess Francis and his uncontrollable tantrums through the eyes and voices of three narrators, his step-daughter Elyse Bowden Grayson, born in 1950, Aidan Madsen, born in 1880, who is a close family friend, band leader, schoolmaster, curator of Washington's Headquarters museum, historian and musician, and Francis himself. Each narrator presents a unique perception spanning three different time frames re-creating the high-impact that can result from relations between people.
Elyse desperately wants to know who exactly is her step-father and why he is always angry to the extent that he uses her as a punching bag. As for Francis, he is continuously blaming the women who brought him up for all of his misfortunes. Nonetheless, he is determined to become a top-notch musician believing that he could have a life beyond the Grayson House and under the guidance of his mentor and teacher, Aidan, he initially succeeds. Aidan proves to be more than a music teacher and mentor to Francis, he is also privy to some of the ugliness of Francis' family, as well he is the gate keeper of the family's darkest secrets that he has locked up in a journal that Francis and his children will need to know about someday. One of these secrets that will have an enormous impact on Francis' life concerns a mysterious group of ten paintings known as The Angry Woman Suite that was painted by one of America's finest painters, Matthew Waterston. Who was this famous artist and why was Francis' mother the model who posed for Matthew for all ten of these paintings? Why was she painted as someone that is angry? Another secret is a fire that had snuffed out the lives of two individuals and the mistaken condemnation of someone close to Francis as the perpetrator of the fire.
There is something fascinating in labyrinthine plot twists, which is what we have here, and I must applaud Fullbright for her keen and magical ability to pull it off with such aplomb. Although the plot at times may be shocking and thoroughly unsettling, it nonetheless is immensely satisfying and challenging as we explore such themes as identity, insecurity, deception, evilness, abuse, cruelty, and the fragility of life. It is also a seductive and mesmerizing examination of the effects of dark secrets on the people who must live with them that will keep readers deeply engrossed until its poignant conclusion. And as we carefully listen to the three narrators, we have to conclude that much of what we take for granted about our existence is usually a figment of our imagination or things are really not as they seem. In fact, the power these delusions have over us is staggering.
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