Showing 181 - 190 of 251 annotations contributed by Duffin, Jacalyn

Alias Grace

Atwood, Margaret

Last Updated: Nov-17-2003
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

For more than fifteen years, Irish-born Grace Marks has been confined for the 1843 murder of housekeeper, Nancy Montgomery, and her employer, Thomas Kinnear, at their home north of Toronto. Her convicted accomplice was hanged, accusing Grace with his last breath, but her sentence was commuted to life in prison at the last minute. Because of her amnesia and outbursts of rage and panic, she was held in the Lunatic Asylum before being sent to the Kingston [Ontario] Penitentiary.

Beautiful, intelligent, and strangely poised, Grace intrigues worthy townsfolk, spiritualists, and some of her jailers, who grant her the privilege of outside work, believe in her innocence, and strive for a pardon. In looking for medical approbation, they consult Dr. Simon Jordan, a young American doctor who is interested in insanity and memory loss. Without explaining his purpose, he brings her vegetables and other familiar objects, hoping to stimulate recollection of her life.

Interspersed with Jordan's own problems, Grace's story unfolds in her own words, from her poverty-stricken childhood in Ireland and the emigration voyage that killed her mother, leaving her and her younger siblings to a neglectful father, through her short life in service, to the dreadful events of autumn 1843. She has suffered many losses, including the death of her mother to ship fever, and that of her friend and fellow servant, Mary Whitney, from an illegally procured abortion. After many weeks, Jordan abandons his project in frustration and ambiguity. The novel ends years later with forty-six year-old Grace's discharge from prison in 1872, nearly thirty years after the crime.

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The Ash Garden

Bock, Dennis

Last Updated: Nov-16-2003
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Emiko a child survivor of Hiroshima, is now a documentary filmmaker. She has horrific memories of August 1945 when she lost her parents and little brother, and of the years of painful operations and homesickness in America where she was sent to restore her mutilated face. She is hoping to interview Anton Böll, a scientist who had fled Germany to work on the Manhattan project.

Böll contends that he had been unaware of human rights abuses; he left Europe because the Nazi regime had cramped his scientific style. As a consequence, his mother was imprisoned and killed. During the war, he met his Austrian-born Jewish wife, Sophie, at a displaced persons camp in Canada. Sophie had lost her whole family, but she does not speak of them and he does not ask.

Briefly they knew happiness, but soon Böll left for work on the bomb and on to Hiroshima in its aftermath. Their marriage would never be the same. For the rest of his life, Böll justified his involvement as a "dream" turned "nightmare" emerging from the imperative demands of a virtuous science. When Emiko approaches him, he hesitates. He does not want to risk blame. But his dying wife knows that absolution for unacknowledged guilt is what he craves.

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Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Treatise

Summary:

In 1869, national and medical attention was focused on a poor family in Wales. The daughter, twelve year-old Sarah Jacob, was bedridden with a strange ailment characterized by paralysis, staring fits, and anorexia. Yet she did not waste away. On the contrary, she seemed to survive comfortably with only few drops of water daily. Credulous folk came to visit, knowing that such abstinence had been the practice of many Christian saints; they would leave a few coins as an offering, although the family protested that money had never been requested. Others claimed it was a hoax.

Eventually the doctors and vicars became curious. An initial investigation upheld the family’s position that the girl did not eat. A more rigorous second investigation was designed by medical professors from Guy’s Hospital in London and carried out by trained nurses who sat knitting at the bedside. It resulted in the girl’s death.

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Annina

Dunmore, Helen

Last Updated: Nov-16-2003
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

When I had Annina, the narrator says, her first-born child was eight years old, frost covered the geraniums, and something "warm and wet" ran down her legs. She lost her second pregnancy at only nine weeks from a spontaneous abortion. Secretly, she names the tiny girl "Annina" and tucks her inside her heart and mind, where for years she nurtures her, protects her, dresses her, listens to her language, and watches her grow to a daring adventuress, though she is Thumbelina small, and carries a needle for a sword. Annina eventually moves on and the narrator will not dare to ask her to come home.

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The Thief

Dunmore, Helen

Last Updated: Nov-16-2003
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Sam and her partner are getting ready to go out. She is due to have a baby soon, and they need to acquire just a few more items to complete the nursery and baby wardrobe. Sam wants a Forever Baby duvet, but realizes that it may be difficult because duvets are large and hard to conceal. Slowly it emerges that her trendy baby supplies are stolen.

Sam stops by the clinic where an assistant makes the mistake of asking if this is her first pregnancy. The glance from a colleague silences her, but Sam notices. She has no baby now but she remembers her little girl who "ought to have kept out of his way" although she was hiding in her duvet.

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James Miranda Barry

Duncker, Patricia

Last Updated: Nov-16-2003
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

A child of a beautiful, talented woman and ambiguous paternity craves learning. Adopted by a Spanish officer and an "uncle" who is a painter, s/he is sent off to Edinburgh as a pedagogic experiment to become James Barry, a male medical student. Barry adores the vivacious Alice, an illiterate but intelligent servant, whom he teaches to read.

Later as a doctor and medical officer, he travels the world to the Crimea, to the Caribbean, to South Africa and America, a scion of society and a good scientist. By happy fortune, he lives in retirement with Alice, who has become a famous actress. The book ends with the scandalous revelation of Barry's femininity when his body is laid to rest.

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A Jury of Her Peers

Glaspell, Susan

Last Updated: Oct-21-2003
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Martha Hale and her husband are taken by the sheriff with his wife to the isolated home of the Wrights. Hale tells the authorities that on the previous morning he found Mr. Wright strangled to death. Mrs. Wright claimed not to know who killed him. She was arrested and awaiting charges.

Mrs. Hale and the sheriff's wife are to gather clothing and see to her preserves. The men mock women's "trifles" and jokingly caution them not to miss any clues, before they turn to their "more serious" work of finding a motive. In a basket of patches destined for a quilt, the women find a strangled canary. In quilt-like fragments, they piece together the difficult life of the third woman and decide to conceal the evidence that could incriminate her.

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The Imaginary Invalid

Molière

Last Updated: Oct-21-2003
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

Argan, a fearful but miserly hypochondriac, divides his time between summoning the doctor to care for his ills and trying not to settle the resultant bills. He resolves to marry his daughter, Angélique, to a medical student, hoping to acquire unlimited access to gratis consultation. The chosen fiancé is an unattractive dolt, who would never interest Angélique, even if she were not already in love with clever, handsome Cléante, who poses as her music instructor.

Argan's wife, however, plans to send Angélique to a convent, removing her from the line inheritance. At the urging of the sensible servant Toinette, he feigns death to test his wife's affection only to discover her contempt. Again with the help of Toinette, the young lovers convince Argan to liberate himself from the twin tyrannies of his ailing body and his grasping physicians by becoming his own doctor. The play closes with the physicians' lively examination of Argan and his entry into the profession, full of musical pomp and pidgin Latin.

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Seduction of the Innocent

Wertham, Fredric

Last Updated: Oct-21-2003
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Treatise

Summary:

After seven years of research on children and adolescents diagnosed as "juvenile delinquents," psychiatrist Wertham concluded that crime comic books (mysteries, thrillers, horror, and police stories) are a harmful influence on young minds. In fourteen chapters, rife with the logic of comparison from the adult world, he analyzed the problem literature, its artwork, its advertising, and the so-called "educational messages" it contained.

Against the evidence of various "experts" and the champions of civil liberties, numerous anecdotes demonstrate how comic books glorify violent crime, link sexual love with physical abuse, permit illiteracy, and invite imitation. A series of vignettes demonstrates that violent child crime is on the rise and that actual crimes--even murder--have been connected to the reading of comics.

Wertham also provided statistics on comic book publishing, finances, and influence. A penultimate chapter is devoted to television. Emphasizing the public initiatives and legislative controls brought against American comics in other countries, such as Canada, Britain, Italy, Mexico, and Sweden, he demands action before yet another generation of youth is ruined.

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Mr. Doyle and Dr. Bell

Engel, Howard

Last Updated: Oct-21-2003
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

In Edinburgh 1879, the famous actress Hermione Clery and her young lover are brutally murdered. A young man, Alan Lambert, stands accused of the crime, arrested after an expensive chase across the Atlantic. His brother, Graeme, appeals to Dr. Joseph Bell, professor of surgery and one of a dynasty in Scottish academic medicine. At first reluctant, Bell agrees to investigate the case and engages his medical student Arthur Conan Doyle in the task.

The story is told from Doyle's imperfect perspective. Beset by many obstacles from the police, the courts, and the Lambert family, Bell's investigation reveals a string of errors, including police sloppiness, suspicious evidence, and corruption in both government and law enforcement. On the day of the planned execution, Bell identifies the true killer and his motive, saving Lambert from wrongful death.

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