Paulette Mahurin’s The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap is an eye-opening book with a very powerful message and I read it with great interest.
First, an admission: I am a diligent history student because as the greats of old would tell you, “Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” This is why all my books have a thoughtful and meticulous historical underpinning seamlessly worked into the narrative. Paulette Mahurin masterfully weaves into her book the historic references of the late 19th century. Oscar Wilde’s trial for gross indecency in Great Britain is the main reference throughout the book, but also mentioned are the controversial Dreyfus conviction for espionage in France, Booker T. Washington, The aggressive US Monroe Doctrine expansion to South America and as a mere wisp, prejudice against Jews in both Russia and USA.
All these historical acknowledgments are much more than mere nods to well known past events. They serve to bring the entire world into the small Nevada town, which is the center of book’s action, and they also serve to underline that prejudice, ignorance and small-mindedness have no borders and are equally suffocating and harmful whether they are directed against a famous writer, a simple woman, a race, a religion, or against entire nations. Nothing happens in a vacuum, and so, this small Nevada town gets involved in raging world affairs through telegrams received via local post office, while playing out their own quiet drama, where gossip and malicious persecution of someone different becomes a sport.
I was impressed by the character of Mildred Dunlap. She is hardly a good-looking woman, with money and a wonderful heart, who helps her neighbors financially despite being the subject of constant gossip and black envy throughout her uneasy life. Mildred allows herself only one indulgence – her long-time secret love affair with her female cousin Edra. But the aftershock of the Oscar Wilde conviction in Britain threatens to change the status quo as the two women start fearing that they may become the subject of persecution themselves. I found the book development done exceptionally well and I found myself rooting for Mildred.
The author is part of the medical profession and I was very impressed how accurately various medical conditions were worked into the story line and how much they enhanced the book. The shocking and memorable culmination of the story is also about a medically-related mistake costing someone their life – but no spoilers!
The story also underlines the karmic consequences of one’s actions as in the end everyone reaps what they’ve sawed! Highly recommended!
I enjoyed every bit of this beautifully written tale. In particular, the author’s apt descriptions of life in as it evolved in early settlement towns of the west. Many of the book’s themes are relevant today, none the least, homosexuality. The love and commitment portrayed between Mildred and her cousin is such that ANYONE would be lucky to find today. I also enjoyed the contract between our own cutting edge medical treatment of today and that which our forefathers suffered with. This delightful book was gifted to me for an honest review.
This is well worth your time. A wonderful look at people who are willing to love and support others even when they don’t understand them. Well-written.
I am so pleased to have been able to read this wonderful book. It was so very well done and special. I loved reading about a town from our early past and how the community rallied to help one another. Of course, every barrel has a rotten apple. I enjoyed the weaving of the brutal gossips in Mildred’s life with her own difficult secret. No matter how badly she was tomented, she was an example of strength and class. Too bad we don’t see more of her ilk today. I was also pleased with how the author ended the story. It showed that intelligence and good moral character will rule in the end. I felt like the three main characters were my friends and I was lucky enough to be part of their circle of love and mutual respect. Cuddle up with this one, folks. Grab a blanket and a nice glass of Pinot Noir and immerse yourself in this lovely book. You will thank me. Oh…and the author too. This book was referred to me for an honest review.
The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap is a book that deserves much more that the five stars a reviewer is limited to give. In the acknowledgements Paulette Mahurin captures the reader and sets the tone with this thought provoking statement:
“…those silent voices that have perished at the hands of hatred, I am grateful for your lives. I have to wonder if I heard your agonized whispers in the middle of the night. Wake me up you did, to what it is to suffer at the hand of prejudice over the color of your skin, the legacy of your genetic heritage, your sexual preference, and in many, your authentic selves that dared to differ from the norm.”
It is with such easy flowing and powerful language that the author takes the reader through this intricate tale. Taking enormous events in global history and simplifying them to a small town perspective in 1895 Nevada. She does this with effortlessness and straightforwardness. Enticing the reader with the town’s gossip, giving every character and word a perfect place, taking the reader through a wide array of emotions.
As a huge fan of Oscar Wilde’s work I also enjoyed her choice of his quotes at the start of each chapter.
The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap is far more than the story of a forbidden love between two women. It is the story of the sad reality of all forms of prejudice as well as the wonderful potential for acceptance and understanding.
The book in one sentence: What small town gossiping can result in — nothing good.
My two cents: This book is not about Oscar Wilde, but he would have been proud how this book’s message of tolerance was inspired by his life. News about his conviction was also the impetus for the string of rather unfortunate events that play itself out in this small Nevada town.
Mildred Dunlap hails from a moneyed family, but is known by many to be kind-hearted and generous with her wealth. But she suffers because of her rather manly looks. She lives quietly with her cousin Edra minding their own business.
When the news of Oscar Wilde’s conviction for gross indecency breaks, it serves as fodder for the town of Red Pass. Conservatives in the community denounce the act and past events of how men suspected of being homosexual were driven away from their very community becomes news once more.
This strikes fear in Mildred’s own heart. She has witnessed how intolerance has bred contempt and hatred in her community, the very reason why she has spent a life covering up her love for her cousin Edra. She knows how things will go if people find out the truth about them. Contrary to Edra’s gut feel, Mildred decides to take matters into her own hands and concocts an elaborate plan to plant “anti-gossip” among the gossipmongers.
As things are set in motion, she comes head to head with Josie Purdue, who has an axe to grind with Mildred. Josie fights back with her own counterplan. What follows is a tragedy, bringing to fore the evilness of ignorance, close-mindedness and intolerance.
What I liked: This book is extremely insightful about people and the crowd mentality. I hail from a small town where everyone knows everybody and everybody’s business (whether or not they should) – and there is the good, the bad, and the ugly to it. I am familiar with how gossip gets twisted and can take on a life of its own. Really, how do these things get so out of hand?
Paulette Mahurin is a master at her characters. While it seems that the protagonists and antagonists are clear in the beginning, they are actually depicted as being neither good not bad, but merely as human. The message of tolerance really comes across as we are given a peek into Josie’s wretched life, of Edra’s painful past, of storekeeper Gus’s dark secret, of Charley’s ignorance and simple-mindedness. Their stories shape their lives, their relationships, and their actions. It is their realism that will draw you into this story.
Verdict: An insightful story about how people deal with and live with bigotry. While a simple story at the core, the life lessons one draws out of it will hit you hard, provoke you, challenge you. Would you stand up in face of a crowd demanding that being prejudiced is right? A highly recommended read!
Random quotes: In the middle of the night, in the sleepy town of Red River Pass, a lonely telegraph machine clicked away, with no one yet present to receive its message, delivering in Morse code the news of a writer in England who had just made legal history for being the first famous person convicted of committing acts of gross indecency. – p. 9
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I also hosted Paulette Mahurin’s guest post entitled “What I Would Risk for Love” and a giveaway of her book on my blog guiltlessreading dot blogspot dot.com
I’ve been dying to get my eyes on the pages of this book. Being the good book reviewer that I am, I do what I can to keep everyone in proper order, but from time to time, a book really nags at me to pick it up.
When it finally came time to pick this book up, I did so, with relish, and devoured every page. I will admit, when I read the description, A Woman’s Brokeback Mountain, I was a little hesitant. In all honestly, I hated that story. It wasn’t the topic, as anyone who knows me knows that I am a huge LBGTQ advocate, but honestly, the Brokeback story was so two-dimensional. I found that I didn’t care about the characters and I so wanted to.
Luckily, with this book, I didn’t have that problem. I immediately fell in love with Mildred and Ezra. Their characters were so well defined, different but worked so well together. The story itself rushed along, not because of the story’s particular pacing, but because I didn’t want to stop turning pages.
The book touches on a subject that was sensitive for the time-period, but also sensitive now. With phrases like “war on marriage” and “keeping marriage traditional”, people tend to forget that there are actual human beings involved in this. People who just want to experience the same rights to love the people they love, regardless of sexual preference and gender.
This book does an amazing job of that. Of reminding us that people involved are human beings. They love and ache, hurt and bleed, they exist just as everyone exists.
I am happy to give this book a five of five stars. The writing is tight, if not a little sophomoric, but I found it fitting with the time period and the background of the characters. There wasn’t much, if anything, that drew me out of the story, and frankly, it was just wonderful. Regardless of your genre preference, you should pick up this book. It’s absolutely well worth it and I’m definitely looking forward to anything Paulette Mahurin puts out in the future.
The author takes the topic of being homosexual in a small religiously minded town and treats it in an understanding and compassionate way. Good on you Paulette!
Mildred Dunlap has always been too tall, overweight and heavy featured, she has resigned herself to being an old maid. The daughter of the richest man in the area has set her up for ridicule and gossip. But Mildred’s spirit is indomitable. She remains kind and steadfast.
Edra is Midlred’s cousin and best friend. A traumatic even when she was a child, has left her frightened and vulnerable. Mildred helped her move beyond the trauma and the two fell in love.
Living in a small Western town, the two keep their relationship a secret. The arrest of Oscar Wilde in England, for gross indecency, makes them both afraid. What if they are found out? What will happen to them? Mildred comes up with a plan to cover their tracks by starting a relationship with the recently widowed Charley. She hopes a relationship with him will deflect notice from her relationship with Edra.
Charley is a kind, handsome, friendly man who nursed his wife as she died of cancer. Devastated by her death, he is very much in need of a friend. Mildred shows him kindness and friendship. He is a loving, kind man who cherishes his friends and family.
I have to admit, I completely fell in love with Charley. His sweet nature and warm, friendly spirit filled me with joy.
The persecution of Mildred Dunlap is a tender story of love, friendship, gossip and betrayal. Even in the adverse circumstances, the main characters remain steadfast.
Paulette Mahurin’s characters are well developed and defined. Each has a distinctive personality that conveys itself to the reader. No one character dominates the storyline – they all share the state, presenting different sides of the issue.
Set in turn of the century Nevada, the author has beautifully laid the scene, capturing the spirit of the times and the small town dynamic. It is a fitting backdrop for the events which follow.
The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap is a stunning book, appropriate for high school readers and older. In easy to digest terms, Paulette weaves a tapestry of Mildred’s life, laying her soul bare. She tenderly examines Mildred’s motivations as well as those of her enemy, town gossip – Josie.
I really enjoyed the Persecution of Mildred Dunlap. It was an excellent representation of true love.
Five Golden Acorns © Dellani Oakes