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I chose to read this book because I very much enjoyed this author's previous book, The Yellow Wife. And, I love the cover. I have long maintained that you CAN judge many books by their cover.
It starts off in 1948, which makes it a historical novel. It starts out with 2 parallel stories, one narrated by Ruby, the other by Eleanor. There does not seem to be a connection between the two, but the reader can assume that there will be. Both young ladies want to better the lives they were born into and have set high goals for themselves. Both want to further their education. Both want to be accepted for who they are. Both are dealing with racism, which was rampant in the mid-20th century. And both of their lives take an unexpected direction.
I enjoyed the characters of Ruby and Eleanor, equally. While each of them was totally unique in personality, they were also the same in their strength and determination. There were many interesting side characters. There is William and Shimmy, the love interests of each girl respectively, Ruby's Aunt Marie who was truly a diamond in the rough, Ruby's mother Inez is a piece of work as are the mothers of William and Shimmy. Every book needs characters that the reader can admire as well as characters that are easy to hate!
It is easy to figure out about halfway through how the connection between the two women was going to come about. But that does not detract from the progression of the story.
Many themes are covered in the story: racism, sexuality, pregnancy, loss of a child, adoption, abuse, determination, choices and consequences. These are in no particular order but they all blend to make a very compelling story. Ms. Johnson does an excellent job of telling us a cohesive and compelling tale. I was just over halfway through the book when I knew that it rates 5 stars.
I am so thankful to authors that write historical fiction. They create a very easy means of learning about earlier times and social issues. While the setting of this book is 70 years ago, it is still very relevant. All of us are familiar with racism, but when a picture of actual experiences is drawn with words, it makes an indelible imprint on our minds.
I love the ending. The only word I can think of to describe it is SUBTLE. Also very suitable. I also loved that there is an Epilogue that takes the reader forward by 14 years. I often wonder what happens to the characters after the book ends. This Epilogue takes my uncertainty away.
Ms. Johnson adds Author's Notes at the end. She explains where the storyline came from. She also explains the parallels to her family history.
From the book blurb, I was not expecting this kind of story but I did enjoy. I like books where I can understand other culture’s perspective and this book sure provided that. I don’t wan to give too much details about how the story progresses as I feel the reader should be surprised as I was.
We read about 2 African American girls and their hopes for the future in the 50s. Love, family and to get their rightful place onto society.
I especially enjoyed the author’s note who expressed why she chose to explore this personal topic.
The House of Eve is a compelling tale that sweeps you away to Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., during the early 1950s and into the lives of two Black women; Ruby Pearsall, a high school junior who dreams of winning one of only two scholarships so she can attend university and become an ophthalmologist until her love for a local Jewish boy puts a little wrench in her plans, and Eleanor Quarles, a Howard University sophomore whose love for a wealthy medical student and an unexpected pregnancy opens her eyes to a world she never knew existed and a social hierarchy she’s not sure she’ll ever be able to climb.
The prose is eloquent and expressive. The characters are genuine, multilayered, and vulnerable. And the plot is a beautifully written, poignant tale about life, loss, courage, hope, dreams, motherhood, poverty, racial discrimination, inequality, forbidden love, adoption, familial drama, and the heartbreak and struggles of infertility.
In 2021, Johnson’s previous novel, The Yellow Wife, was one of my favourite novels of the year, and it’s safe to say The House of Eve will be on that list for 2023. It’s a powerful, emotional, masterfully woven tale that transports you to another time and place and immerses you so thoroughly into the personalities, feelings, and lives of the characters you can’t help but be completely absorbed and fully invested.
Well-developed characters pull you into the story immediately and stirs strong emotions within you. A grim time of history masterfully narrated. Although rooted in the 1950s this heartbreaking but hopeful story resonates equally today. This hauntingly beautiful, heart wrenching and tragic novel will keep you on the edge of your seat right from the first page.
Thank you to NetGalley and Simon & Shuster Canada who provided me with a copy of this book. I am voluntarily leaving an honest review.
I read this with my book club. This was different from the type of book I would normally read, but I enjoyed my time with Ruby and Eleanor. Ruby has a hard upbringing, with her desire to succeed and become an optometrist outweighing her first opportunity for love. Eleanor is a Howard student who finds her life taking a different direction from small town Ohio while getting her education, despite the obstacles she faces from her husband's family. Their paths barely cross, but their lives are intertwined through the loves and losses they encounter. My favorite parts of this book were the descriptions of Black college life and society at Howard. There are not enough books that focus on the topic, and Sadeqa Johnson made the time and place come to life with her descriptions. The apartment that Ruby shares with her aunt and the dorm and roommates of Eleanor's story are vivid, even the hard parts. The ending pages of this book are especially poignant as well. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants a Black, female story about DC and Philadelphia in the 1950s and 1960s.
I enjoyed reading The House of Eve. The author Sadeqa Johnson gave us interesting characters. The characters were likable and I found myself wanting to know more about them. Some characters I didn't like but that was the point. When I was reading the various scenes, I could picture the various rooms, the street they lived on, the library, the expressions on their faces and what they were doing like I was watching a movie rather than reading a book. I also appreciate the research done to capture that time. I felt for the girls at The House of Eve. When you find yourself talking out loud to your book like you would a TV screen you know it's a very good read/story. Ruby and Eleanor are strong women both dealing with very difficult situations. You feel for these women. I could give a lot of details of what I loved about it but I don't want to give it away. Just read it!
Loved the perspective this book brings throughout the story with the POV of the 2 main characters, Ruby & Eleanor who find themselves in difficult ‘situations’ in mid-century America. I think the book deftly captured the nuances of the time and the challenges women faced with an unplanned pregnancy, in particular. The author throwing in the issue of race, class, colorism, racism, patriarchal beliefs and female ambition, gave the real intrigue to the story.
I’m giving the book 4 stars because I thought the ending was rushed, after such a spectacular build up of the characters and their stories. I would have loved to get a bit more perspective on how both characters evolved as a result of their decisions. Having the author reveal the inspiration of the story with her own true family history was brilliant and added more empathy for the main characters on a more personal level.