Henry’s Sisters Make Good Reading

Reading the Past interviews Patricia O'Brien author of the historical novel Harriet and Isabella

Reading the Past: Patricia O'Brien's Harriet and Isabella (Touchstone/Simon & Schuster, Jan. 2008, $25.00) dramatizes a sex scandal that preoccupied the nation in the late 19th century. It begins in Brooklyn Heights in 1887, as Henry Ward Beecher, a charismatic preacher known for his oratorical skill, lies on his deathbed. As reporters gathered around his brownstone begin their vigil, two of his sisters, Harriet Beecher Stowe and Isabella Beecher Hooker, are forced to revisit the cause of their long estrangement. Twelve years earlier, Henry had been put on trial for adultery with Elizabeth Tilton, one of his parishioners. While Harriet stood by him, striving to present the Beechers as a strong family unit, Isabella publicly urged him to admit his guilt…

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