Wednesday, March 7, 2018

G973 Book Review of The secret life of Mrs London by Rebecca Rosenberg

Name of Book: The secret life of Mrs. London

Author: Rebecca Rosenberg

ISBN: 978-1542048736

Publisher: Lake Union

Type of book: 1915-1917, WWI, Houdini, Jack London, marriage, relationships, muse to artist, gilded cage, performances, story, death, loyalty, finances, family

Year it was published: 2018


San Francisco, 1915. As America teeters on the brink of world war, Charmian and her husband, famed novelist Jack London, wrestle with genius and desire, politics and marital competitiveness. Charmian longs to be viewed as an equal partner who put her own career on hold to support her husband, but Jack doesn’t see it that way…until Charmian is pulled from the audience during a magic show by escape artist Harry Houdini, a man enmeshed in his own complicated marriage. Suddenly, charmed by the attention Houdini pays her and entranced by his sexual magnetism, Charmian’s eyes open to a world of possibilities that could be her escape.

As Charmian grapples with her urge to explore the forbidden, Jack’s increasingly reckless behavior threatens her dedication. Now torn between two of history’s most mysterious and charismatic figures, she must find the courage to forge her own path, even as she fears the loss of everything she holds dear.


From Victoria Kelly, MRS. HOUDINI, THE NOVEL

The Secret Life of Mrs. London is a heart-wrenching portrait of a marriage between two people who utterly depend on one another, but ultimately aren't enough for each other. With skillful precision of language, Rosenberg weaves a narrative that defines the complexities of love, passion and art. This is a perceptive, deeply moving novel by a great new talent about a couple who has gone unnoticed in historical fiction until now. Anyone who has ever loved another person will want to read this book.


One of Houdini’s best kept secrets was his affair with Charmian London in 1918. Now Rebecca Rosenberg tells the story using an elegant blend of fact and fiction, creating a Houdini book like no other. The Secret Life of Mrs. London is a true peek behind the curtain and a page-turner. –John Cox,

From Malena Watrous, SPARKED, IF YOU FOLLOW ME

The SECRET LIFE of MRS. LONDON is a riveting behind-the-scenes look at the marriage of Jack and Charmain London, both fascinating and complicated characters with rich inner lives that Rosenberg conveys in crisp yet poetic prose. This contemporary historical fiction raises questions that are still relevant today about what makes a good marriage, and whether creativity and stability are incompatible. A rich, resonant, deeply satisfying novel sure to delight and leave readers thinking long after they put it down.


Charmian is Jack London's wife, and its a identity she truly takes to heart, being to him whatever he desires her to be. She truly loves him and wants nothing but success for him. I found her to be a complex character and its hard to pigeonhole her into one category. Jack London is best described as an author diva as well as someone who takes advantage of people close to him. (He is not exactly painted in a positive light in this story...) He is fickle, callous, and in a lot of aspects is selfish. Bessie Houdini is also complex although she strives to be simple-minded. She is sweet, honest and in a lot of ways like Charmian, caged by a man's greatness. (I honestly think that Bessie Houdini is perhaps my favorite character in the story.)  Harry Houdini is mystical, intelligent and can also predict Charmian's moves with great accuracy. He is also loyal to his roots and to those he loves. (Writing about them, I just realized how eerily similar Houdini and Jack are...!)


You are more than just one identity


The story is in first person narrative from Charmian's point of view. The story begins with a bang (literally) and doesn't let go of the reader easily until the last few pages. I did want to know what happened to Charmian after the final few pages, but I think the author hinted at it throughout the novel rather than writing an author's note as most authors do to let the readers know what is fiction and what is truth. I also wanted to know what happened to Jack's family in the upcoming years as the Roaring Twenties came onto the scene so to speak. One aspect I wasn't comfortable with were the  Japanese servants employed by the London family because they weren't fully drawn characters and its a bit difficult to believe that one of them spoke in Japanese sayings and riddles all the time. (I recall reading in another book that Japanese who arrived to America picked up English with gusto because they didn't want to be viewed as Chinese were viewed.)

Author Information:
(From HFVBT)

About the Author

A California native, Rebecca Rosenberg lives on a lavender farm with her family in Sonoma, the Valley of the Moon, where Jack London wrote from his Beauty Ranch. Rebecca is a long-time student of Jack London’s works and an avid fan of his daring wife, Charmian London. The Secret Life of Mrs. London is her debut novel.

Rebecca and her husband, Gary, own the largest lavender product company in America, selling to 4000 resorts, spas and gift stores. The Rosenbergs believe in giving back to the Sonoma Community, supporting many causes through financial donations and board positions, including Worth Our Weight, an educational culinary program for at-risk children, YWCA shelter for abused women, Luther Burbank Performing Arts Center to provide performances for children, Sonoma Food Bank, Sonoma Boys and Girls Club, and the Valley of the Moon Children’s Home.

For more information, please visit Rebecca’s website and blog. You can also find her on Facebook and Goodreads. Visit the Facebook page for The Secret Life of Mrs. London.

Probably like most of the people, I knew next to nothing about Jack London besides his Call of the Wild story as well as White Fang, which I found to be beautifully written. (In high school, I had to read a short story by him which is about a man trying to be on his own in Alaska without guidance and failing, as I remember it...) Besides him being an escape artist, I also knew next to nothing about Houdini as well. (My friend, G-d rest her soul, once called my son 'little Houdini' because he easily escaped the swaddling blanket as a baby.) For me the book honestly reads as if the author has known all the characters in her lifetime and they are larger than life. Other factors of the story are also very engaging such as the plot, the tight intricate details of Jack's and Charmian's daily life as well as their trip to Hawaii and the vivid characterizations of secondary characters of Bessie and Harry Houdini. All in all, a beautiful and vivid read where the reader won't look at page numbers but instead will devour the novel in a few settings as possible.

This is for HFVBT

Blog Tour Schedule

Tuesday, January 30
Review at A Bookaholic Swede

Wednesday, January 31
Interview & Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Thursday, February 1
Guest Post at Let Them Read Books
Feature at What Is That Book About

Friday, February 2
Review at View from the Birdhouse
Feature at Historical Fiction with Spirit

Monday, February 5
Review at Creating Herstory

Tuesday, February 6
Review at Planting Cabbages

Wednesday, February 7
Review at A Bookish Affair

Thursday, February 8
Interview at Planting Cabbages

Friday, February 9
Review at Bookish

Sunday, February 11
Review at Carole’s Ramblings

Monday, February 12
Review at Cup of Sensibility

Tuesday, February 13
Review & Giveaway at The Maiden’s Court

Wednesday, February 14
Review at Donna’s Book Blog

Thursday, February 15
Review at Jorie Loves a Story

Friday, February 16
Guest Post at Short Book and Scribes

Monday, February 19
Review at Reading the Past

Tuesday, February 20
Review at The Lit Bitch

Friday, February 23
Review at Pursuing Stacie
Review at History From a Woman’s Perspective

Monday, February 26
Review at Back Porchervations

Tuesday, February 27
Guest Post at My Reading Corner

Wednesday, February 28
Review & Giveaway at Suzy Approved Book Reviews

Thursday, March 1
Review at What Cathy Read Next

Friday, March 2
Review at Svetlana’s Reads and Views

Monday, March 5
Review at Caryn, the Book Whisperer

Tuesday, March 6
Review at Bookish Beck

4 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)

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