Review 1418: Sister Noon

I found the first two books I read by Karen Joy Fowler slight, but then she blew me away with We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves. So, I thought I’d give Sister Noon a chance.

In 1890’s San Francisco, Lizzie Hayes is a spinster who spends her time doing good works. In particular, she is treasurer for the Ladies Relief and Protection Society, or the Brown Ark, a home that takes in orphaned children or children whose parents can’t keep them. To Lizzie comes the notorious Mary Ellen Pleasant, a woman about whom there are many rumors. She brings Lizzie a child, Jenny Hijab, who needs shelter.

After Lizzy calls on Mrs. Pleasant in the House of Mystery to report on Jenny, her friends go to great lengths to warn her about the acquaintance. Lizzy is fascinated by this household, where Mrs. Pleasant seems to be in charge of Mrs. Bell’s house even though Mr. Bell was previously her lover, and Mr. Bell is never present. Mrs. Bell has told her some bizarre stories but not more bizarre than the ones she’s already heard. Actually, although Lizzie is not inclined to pursue the acquaintance, she finds there are things she needs to know.

This novel moves back and forth in time to tell its stories about the wild days of early San Francisco, but this doesn’t help with the lack of focus I felt when reading the book. I found myself losing patience as it slowly meandered to its point. It finally begins getting somewhere about 20 pages from the end. Normally, a book that develops slowly doesn’t bother me, but this one made me impatient. I think this was because I wasn’t that interested in the characters.

Related Posts

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

The Jane Austen Book Club

Wit’s End

2 thoughts on “Review 1418: Sister Noon

  1. Jane November 14, 2019 / 12:35 pm

    I completely agree with you, a book can get away with an awful lot if we engage with and care about the characters can’t it?!

    • whatmeread November 14, 2019 / 2:54 pm

      Yes, although we hope it’s not trying to get away with anything! I liked her Wit’s End better, because even though it was very slight, I liked the characters. This one is trying harder to be significant but isn’t quite making it.

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