Russia /New York
“Inspired by real events chronicled by a journalist for The World News, Elizabeth Cochrane (pen name, Nellie Bly), in 1887. Klara Gelfman’s life in Kiev was serene until she turned nineteen. That’s when Russia’s Tsar Alexander II was assassinated, and a vicious propaganda campaign spread that blamed the Jews for his death. Klara and her family became victims of the many pogroms breaking out throughout Russia. None were so violent as what hit Kiev in 1881. It was there that Klara’s family was torn asunder and her world changed forever. This is the story of what happens to this traumatized, orphaned, young Jewish woman when she escapes Russia and crosses an ocean to arrive on the rough streets of New York City able to speak only a few words of English. There, in the land of the free, Klara’s life is thrown into turmoil when she is mistaken for a drunken prostitute. Mistreated by those entrusted to protect her—the police, a judge, doctors, and nurses—she is condemned to an unrelenting hellscape when she is incorrectly and involuntarily committed to a lunatic asylum. At a time when women had no political, economic or professional rights, comes a story where corruption by the powerful was as overt and commonplace as was garbage on the New York City streets.”
Ms Mahurin writes with vivid emotion, bringing her characters to life in such a way that we are totally immersed in their living nightmares, tragedies, traumas, hopes and dreams.
Some scenes, so emotionally and realistically written were as emotionally hard to read, for the inhumanity dispersed to those who cannot defend themselves was more than shocking, but there were good, kind people trying their best to do good, kind things amongst the the sordid environment of the lunatic asylum.
Do not be put off by the unpleasantness of such though, for Ms Mahurin’s characters also have their dignity and they walk through the pages of this brilliantly written novel with heads high.
This is a skilfully written story of the dark nature of people, and of the determination of others to survive, no matter what. Not a light ‘romantic’ read by any means, but it is one based on the compilation of true stories of several women who faced abuse, humiliation, starvation and other such horrors with immense courage. Read the book, it is a tribute of support to the women of the past who suffered terribly, and to those who tried, in their own way, to help them.
© Ellen Hill
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