Book Review: A White Room by Stephanie Carroll

a white room cover

A White Room

Stephanie Carroll
Unhinged Books

Pub Date   

  • ISBN9780988867413


At the close of the Victorian Era, society still expected middle-class women to be “the angels of the house,” even as a select few strived to become something more. In this time of change, Emeline Evans dreamed of becoming a nurse. But when her father dies unexpectedly, Emeline sacrifices her ambitions and rescues her family from destitution by marrying John Dorr, a reserved lawyer who can provide for her family.

John moves Emeline to the remote Missouri town of Labellum and into an unusual house where her sorrow and uneasiness edge toward madness. Furniture twists and turns before her eyes, people stare out at her from empty rooms, and the house itself conspires against her. The doctor diagnoses hysteria, but the treatment merely reinforces the house’s grip on her mind.

Emeline only finds solace after pursuing an opportunity to serve the poor as an unlicensed nurse. Yet in order to bring comfort to the needy she must secretly defy her husband, whose employer viciously hunts down and prosecutes unlicensed practitioners. Although women are no longer burned at the stake in 1900, disobedience is a symptom of psychological defect, and hysterical women must be controlled.

A novel of madness and secrets, A White Room presents a fantastical glimpse into the forgotten cult of domesticity, where one’s own home could become a prison and a woman has to be willing to risk everything to be free.

Purchase Links

About the Author . . .

As a reporter and community editor, Stephanie Carroll earned first place awards from the National Newspaper Association and from the Nevada Press Association. Stephanie has a bachelor’s degree in history and graduated summa cum laude from California State University, Fresno.

Her dark and magical writing is inspired by the classic authors Charlotte Perkins Gilman (The Yellow Wallpaper), Frances Hodgson Burnett (The Secret Garden), and Emily Bronte (Wuthering Heights).

Stephanie blogs and writes fiction in California, where her husband is stationed with the U.S. Navy. She also writes The Unhinged Historian Blog and The Unhinged and Empowered Navy Wives blog.

A White Room is her debut novel.

Reader review . . .

After the death of her father plunges her family into poverty, Emma marries John Dorr in order to help her mother and sisters.  John immediately moves them to Labellum, Missouri, where she knows no one and the society women she meets do not welcome her.  Their gothic house has an unusual effect on Emma.  She sees furniture moving and people and creatures staring at her from empty rooms.

Emma’s only outlet is her secret charity work.  She uses her medical knowledge to give unlicensed medical care to the poor.  With her husband helping to apprehend and prosecute unlicensed medical practitioners, Emma is in constant danger of discovery.

This debut historical novel is an excellent in-depth examination of the  treatment of women in the early 20th century.  At that time, a woman who went against the mores and customs of the male-dominated society was considered to be mentally ill, diagnosed with hysteria, and often locked away in a mental asylum.  The author knows her subject well, and portrays the fears, as well as the mistreatment, of women with chilling accuracy.

Ms. Carroll should have a promising future in literary fiction.

5 stars

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Netgalley  review program.  I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”