Midnight: Three Women at the Hour of Reckoning

Midnight: Three Women at the Hour of Reckoning

Moments of great intensity in the lives of Jane Austen, Mary Shelley, and Joan of Arc, when each faced a decision that would shape her legacy.When Jane Austen’s father deeded the family home to her brother, Jane was tossed to the winds, no money to her name, probably too old to be wed. At this bleak moment, she receives a proposal of marriage from a rich but boring man. Mi...

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Title:Midnight: Three Women at the Hour of Reckoning
Author:Victoria Shorr
Rating:

Midnight: Three Women at the Hour of Reckoning Reviews

  • Katie/Doing Dewey

    Summary:Lovely, engaging, personal look at some pretty cool women - but if nonfiction, needs better citations!

    This is a story of three women at their hour of reckoning, facing difficult decisions which will shape their lives. The stakes escalate throughout the book, starting with Jane Austen responding to a marriage proposal; continuing with Mary Shelley waiting for her husband to return; and wrapping up with Joan of Arc facing her own execution as a witch.

    This was a delightful, personal look at

    Summary:Lovely, engaging, personal look at some pretty cool women - but if nonfiction, needs better citations!

    This is a story of three women at their hour of reckoning, facing difficult decisions which will shape their lives. The stakes escalate throughout the book, starting with Jane Austen responding to a marriage proposal; continuing with Mary Shelley waiting for her husband to return; and wrapping up with Joan of Arc facing her own execution as a witch.

    This was a delightful, personal look at these women. I loved all the direct quotes the author included. The little details from letters really brought these women to life. I particularly enjoyed getting to know Austen, since I love her books so much. Joan of Arc's story was also moving and inspiring. Shelley's story did less for me. She put up with a lot of nonsense from Percy Shelley and made a lot of small bad decisions that added up, but there wasn't one climactic moment as in the other stories. I also felt like we stopped just as her life reached its most challenging point. I wanted to know what happened next! I still enjoyed getting to know her though, even if her story was my least favorite of the three.

    All three stories drew heavily on primary sources. There were some some citations. However... it was extremely unclear how much evidence supported many of the author's statements. In particular, much of the story is about the interior lives of these women. When the author is talking about their emotions, there is often no citation. This makes it unclear if she's merely extrapolating from sources or making things up completely. Given that so much of this book falls into this category, without citations to indicate otherwise, I'd be inclined to consider this historical fiction. Based on how people are shelving this on goodreads though, I'm in the minority with that decision. The publisher page for the book gives no indication which classification they support. So, while I loved this book and highly recommend it for its engaging writing, I also suggest taking it with a grain of salt.

  • Elyse Walters

    Every reader has memories of going to a book reading...

    maybe listening to an author whom you respect and adore - only to come away with even more admiration for them.

    That’s how I’m left feeling about Jane Austin, Mary Shelly, and Joan of Arc.

    ... and the author: Victoria Shorr.

    We also have memories of ‘big’ life choices.... and may have occasionally wondered how our lives might have been different if we took the ‘other’ choice.

    Transported into another time...we visit these powerful brilliant

    Every reader has memories of going to a book reading...

    maybe listening to an author whom you respect and adore - only to come away with even more admiration for them.

    That’s how I’m left feeling about Jane Austin, Mary Shelly, and Joan of Arc.

    ... and the author: Victoria Shorr.

    We also have memories of ‘big’ life choices.... and may have occasionally wondered how our lives might have been different if we took the ‘other’ choice.

    Transported into another time...we visit these powerful brilliant famous women — are are taken into their most private thoughts....

    ... the choices they made...

    or in Mary Shelly’s case - her fate - and how she dealt with it - and the contributions they each left on the world.

    We are left to question....

    in the throes of a very different life choice - would Jane, and Joan have left a mark on history as they did?

    A common thread in all three women: they shared

    a sense of alienation and isolation.

    I knew essentially nothing about Mary Shelly, other than her famous book,

    “Frankenstein” ( still on my to read list)....

    But I learned something new about all these women.

    There were a few lagging parts for me in each of the stories - but overall I’m definitely glad I read it.

    Other than reading the blurb, I went in blind.

    I learned new tidbits and got a greater understanding of why events unfolded the way that they did.

    3.7 rating

  • Diane S ☔

    3.5 What an interesting and original concept, connecting three well known but disparate women through a pivotal decision that led to the lives they lived. Jane Austen's story was the shortest entry, and the decision she ultimately made, allowed her eventually time to write. In a short spate of time this prolific author created book after book.

    Mary Shelley, whose story I knew the best. Most can guess what her pivotal decision was, changed her path in life. She was so incredibly young when she too

    3.5 What an interesting and original concept, connecting three well known but disparate women through a pivotal decision that led to the lives they lived. Jane Austen's story was the shortest entry, and the decision she ultimately made, allowed her eventually time to write. In a short spate of time this prolific author created book after book.

    Mary Shelley, whose story I knew the best. Most can guess what her pivotal decision was, changed her path in life. She was so incredibly young when she took this often difficult road.

    Joan of Arc, I found her story the most interesting, since it is one i didn't know. Well, I knew the outcome but not the road taken to the conclusion.

    I know I've wondered at different times in my life, when I thought of different roads not taken. How my life would have changed. Had these women not made the decisions they did, we would never have heard of these ladies.

    ARC from Edelweiss.

  • Elizabeth

    Midnight is built around a fascinating premise: a look at Jane Austin, Mary Shelley, and Joan of Arc at crisis ("midnight") moments in their lives. However, while the idea is sound, the execution, particularly in the last third of the book, falters.

    The section on Jane Austen is the shortest, and centers on Jane after she finds herself without a permanent residence, moving with her parents and older sister, Cassandra from Bath to various friends and relatives' homes. Shorr poisits that Jane was u

    Midnight is built around a fascinating premise: a look at Jane Austin, Mary Shelley, and Joan of Arc at crisis ("midnight") moments in their lives. However, while the idea is sound, the execution, particularly in the last third of the book, falters.

    The section on Jane Austen is the shortest, and centers on Jane after she finds herself without a permanent residence, moving with her parents and older sister, Cassandra from Bath to various friends and relatives' homes. Shorr poisits that Jane was unable to write as she wished, and then moves to a marriage proposal Jane recieved, accepted, and then withdrew from in the span of less than a day. While no one knows why Jane did this, it certainly is interesting, and Shorr uses this, along with a fortuitous inheritance by another brother that let Jane, Cassandra, and their parents to move into a permanent residence that delighted Jane, who then went on to produce many of her novels in their final form. Shorr doesn't cover any new ground, but the writing is good and the pace is brisk.

    The second section covers Mary Shelley, and centers around the time of Percy Bysshe Shelley's death. As she waits in Italy for word from him, as he was supposed to be returning by sea from a short trip, Shorr has her reflect on her almost death prior to his, their unorthodox relationship (to start with, the involvement of her stepsister Claire within their relationship from the beginning of it), and her own writing.

    It's the most successful part of Midnight because there's so much ground to cover and it's a look at a very remarkable young woman (she was 25 when Shelley died, been and was a scandal, and had already written Frankenstein) who lived more (beautifully and horribly) in her first two decades than mist of us do in our entire lives.

    The final and longest section of Midnight focuses on the death of Joan of Arc, including her renunciation and subsequent change of heart. Sadly, this is the weakest section of the book, as Shorr decides to "frame" Joan's actions by writing her as someone who divides herself into "Girl X" who is afraid of dying and Joan of Arc, who continues to hear the voices of her saints as she burns to death. Shorr seems to have done her research for this section, based on the few materials available (even then, most of the sources related to Joan's life and death are from years later) but her attempt to explain who Joan of Arc was at the time of her death via the dual-sort-of view points doesn't work.

    The thing about Joan of Arc, in my opinion, is that all attempts at armchair psychology and psychiatry regarding her mind and mental state, as well as even analysis of how and why a teenage peasant girl managed to inspire a movement to defeat the largely mercenary forces of the English army in France, attempt to label and contain something that was--if not quite miraculous, certainly close to it--which is that despite every odd and obstacle, not just limited to her family, her age, her lack of social standing, and her gender--Joan of Arc believed in what she saw and heard so much that she defied every norm of her place and time to convince a king and a country to not just believe in her but to follow her.

    And it was her belief-- her unshakable faith--that accomplished so much, and is so hard for us to understand. Who has that kind of faith in anyone or anything these days? Who can or could withstand the scrutiny and accusations prior to her capture like she did? What terrified the English, and fascinates us is not just how she inspired (which is awe inducing in its own right) but that how, even after capture, Joan continued to out talk educated priests who wanted to prove she was a liar (hertic) and to believe in what she heard and felt. That--the belief of a peasant girl, a literal no one, to stand up for herself, to insist that her beliefs were as solid and real as those who were more "learned" and above her socially--of course she burned. She was terrifying. A girl, an unlearned nothing, with the belief that she and what she believed mattered--could upend and change the world. Which she did, and died for. And all before she'd left her teens.

    So, Midnight stumbles quite a bit in that last section, and is scant in the first, while gossipy but interesting in the second, but I would still suggest it for readers who want to read about women who faced for their--or any--age both in years and in history seemingly insurmountable odds and not just survived but thrived, their works and names still with us centuries later.

    Tl;,dr: Women who got massively impressive sh*t done.

  • Jessica

    I finished Midnight last night (at midnight-ha!) and was absolutely enthralled - the last pages had me sitting bolt upright in bed completely oblivious to anything but Joan of Arc's last moments. I've never read anything like this book and will be recommending it to everyone, especially those looking to read something completely different.

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