Told with an elegant, stripped down simplicity, this story of abiding love and newly discovered friendships is deeply moving. The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap by Paulette Mahurin, depicts a small town in Nevada in the year 1895, shaken by events far beyond its borders and stirred up by malicious hypocrisy and bigotry. The chapters are graced with a quote by Oscar Wilde, and his trial and imprisonment is the main historic event that mirrors the conflicts within Mildred Dunlap’s town of Red River Pass. But the Dreyfus Affair is just beginning, and the hatred of Booker T. Washington is brought into play as well. While details of the background events are brief background, they provide historic color that interweaves with the already taut threads of the lives of the protagonists. The historical setting is interesting, but the main story is the internal conflict and growth of Mildred, Edra, Charley, and Gus, the quartet of sympathetic and complex main characters who must reshape their lives to meet a changing world. We care for them all and hope for their triumph against both the external forces at work against them, and the conflicts eating away at their spirits from within. The novel is a beautiful fusion of tender and raw emotion, dealing with issues still alive and kicking after more than a century.
Delicate and lovely are not words one would normally find associated with subjects as controversial and hatefilled as bigotry, character assination and homosexuality. But I found this book to be just that. The writer so deftly wove her tale of a reviled woman in a close commuinity pre- emancipation, pre-enlightenment, very pre- political correctness. The plot centers around a human female viper that exerts a power over the town; evil and strong enough to to destroy lives and her number one target, Mildred. The writer treads lightly over the issue of homosexuality by showing the positive and loving side in her characters while using the delightful techique of combining the dark history of a talented well-known figure from out past to illustrate the nasty bite bigotry can take out of one’s life. The book also allows the reader a wonderful glimpes into the difficult life of an earlier time. A time that shaped the worth of a man by the number of caluses on his palm and not the strive to have the hottest video on utube. There is very little I can add to the already glowing reviews this writer has received, except to say, “Hurry up with the next one!!”
Red River Pass is a small town that is overwhelmed by the news of Oscar Wilde’s imprisonment for sexual deviancy – his crime was that of being gay. Though most of the town found it disturbing gossip, there were a couple of residents who found the disturbances much closer to home. The story of Mildred & Edra’s love is beautiful but of course, at the time of Wilde’s imprisonment, beauty did not matter when it came to same-sex relationships.
At times, I found the story quite uncomfortable, but not in a I-don’t-want-to-read-this kind of way and more a case of being shocked and overwhelmed by the people that Mildred has to face. It is a tough subject matter, even in today’s society where we’re more open-minded and accepting of the LGBT community.
Mildred is such a lovely character to read and imagine. She is kind, caring, considerate and loving – even to those who don’t deserve her attention. She is equal to all in a world full of intolerance and hate. She is exactly the kind of person that we should strive to be. In opposition of hateful characters such as Josie, Hanah & even Helene, there is Charley and Gus. For me, Charley & Gus were the voice of reason amongst madness and gossip. They are accepting and loyal, no matter their own beliefs. Though Charley points out that Mildred is nothing special to look at, he recognises, and voices, that as a person she is special and she deserves better treatment. Hurray for Charley!
Mildred and Edra have made a friend out of me, and everyone should take a lesson from them – there is no place for “the ignorance that lives in closed minds everywhere”.
You can read this review and an exclusive interview with author at www.loadedshelves.blogpsot.co.uk
This is a brilliant read! I have read a lot of books but I have never read anything quite like this, it is a real eye opener and really makes you think about how difficult some people’s lives really were in the late 1800’s! The book is also beautifully written, very informative and incredibly easy to read. Some novels based around the same era can also be very ‘aged’ in the writing of the book but this isn’t, it is almost written in a modern hand but somehow it makes it better!
Set in the 1880s Nevada, The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap is about a lesbian couple earning their livelihood on a Nevada. They live quietly, happily, keeping to themselves. Then, Britain brought in a law that made homosexuality an illegal act and the famed Oscar Wilde was charged, convicted, and imprisoned, news set telegraph wires resounding throught America.
Mildred Dunlap and her lover are terrified that attention and suspicion will now fall upon them. While they try to keep themselves inconspicuous, town gossips stir up terrible trouble. As suspicions grow worse, they are helped by someone who unexpectedly comes to their aid.
Written on every page are messages of true love, individual prejudices, odium, and the power of love to overcome. A pleasantly gripping story that definitely engaged me. I’m not surprised that there are so many 5 star reviews of this novel. It is definitely worth reading.
When Oscar Wilde was imprisoned, the gossips imprisoned within their own thoughts delighted in his every suffering. But there on the outskirts of a small American town, a wonderful woman called Mildred Dunlap lives alone with her sweet cousin Edra and only one bed. Generous to a fault, willing to help anyone no matter how little they think of her, Mildred suddenly fears what the townsfolk might do, and looks for a plan to hide her life’s “indiscretions” from public view.
Author Paulette Mahurin recreates small-town America convincingly, providing history to people and place, building believable inter-relationships, and revealing secrets in pleasingly genuine conversations. Beautifully researched, convincingly filled with an all too fallible population, this novel pulls the reader into a story filled with history and vivid reflections of the present.
Occasional comments seemed a little over-modern to me, but, having grown up in England, I’m probably not qualified to judge. The story certainly held my interest and kept me turning the pages eagerly. Intriguing, generous, though-provoking, and filled with beautiful descriptions, great quotes, and fascinating dialogues about prejudice, faith, hope and love, I really enjoyed this novel and heartily recommend it.
Disclosure: The author gave me a free ecopy of this novel.