A Pretty Age
By Barbara Mueller
Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko
In 1910, a missionary visitor arrives at Sophiny Mumm’s convent boarding school in Concord, Kansas. Sophiny is smitten. Her best friend Antoinette Dominguez is not—and begins a series of strange behaviors breaking all the rules. In an ensuing investigation of puzzling enigmas, Sophiny has to use all the resources of emerging women’s rights, family relationships, social networks, the new technologies (telephone, photography, and transportation), and patron saints. A Pretty Age exposes the violence still underlying the Midwest’s supposed civilizing forces at the turn of the century (1910) through the emergence of two convent boarding school students into a world where weapons may have changed but the danger remains.
Sophiny finds herself entangled in a net of mystery and intrigue when a missionary visits that is not a missionary, her disappearing best friend and all that goes along with it. This book will keep you enthralled, in following her friend’s story, finding clues as to where she went. I found Sophiny a little immature at first, but she started to grow up and change as time went along. The people in the story that were wicked, they were very wicked. It shocked me, some of the ideas of the time. I thought 1910, the times were becoming more civilized, but it once again taught me how some of the reasons that women began seeking rights, were not all about ruling over men. It was about having a way to prevent abuse and control.
This book clearly shows that picture, including talking in detail about some of the prevalent ideas men believed readily. One of the characters casually states that if a woman learns too much, her female organs would be compromised by lack of blood flow. The blood flow would all be sent to the brain, instead of to the the organs. The wicked man in the book, kept his wife and his charges, drugged and drunk to control them.
It was awful!
This story, with all of that, gives a wonderful portrayal of that time in history, while working the mystery side of the story. The mystery seemed a little juvenile for me, but the rest was for sure more adult content.