“A subtle and complex exploration of a creative life and the challenges faced when a person’s desire to be authentic comes under pressure.” – Goodreads Synopsis
As I mentioned in my January Reading Wrap Up I recently signed up for NetGalley, a website where reviewers and book bloggers like myself can get access to upcoming releases to read and review. NetGalley’s ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies) come in the form of ebooks. Although I’ve never been overly into ebooks I recently received an eReader from my mother-in-law and am hoping to become more acclimated to reading from a screen as time goes by.
The first book I chose from among NetGalley’s trove of treasures is a novel by J. David Simons called A Woman of Integrity, due for publication on March 16th of this year.
Book Review – A Woman of Integrity
Author – J. David Simons Publisher – Freight Books
Pub. Date – March 16, 2017 Genres (via NetGalley) – Literary Fiction, Women’s Fiction
My Rating: 3.5/5
A Woman of Integrity tells the stories of Laura Scott and Georgina “Georgie” Hepburn, with the narrative switching between Laura’s story line and Georgie’s interviews and sections of her unpublished memoir. The synopsis of the novel found on Goodreads does a wonderful job of summing up A Woman of Integrity, calling it “a subtle and complex exploration of a creative life and the challenges faced when a person’s desire to be authentic comes under pressure.” While this tidbit doesn’t give much up in the way of plot information, it does answer the fundamental why questions that any good reader should endeavor to know the answers to – why was this written? why read it [what’s the takeaway]?
The premise behind the novel is fairly simple. Laura Scott is an aging actress who finds herself dumped by her agent with little to no prospects. At a friend’s party she stumbles upon what may be the perfect opportunity to revive her dying career: a one-woman play about her childhood idol Georgie Hepburn, a beloved silent film star. Of course the opportunity may not be as perfect as it first seems to Laura, who will face a lot of tough personal and professional decisions along the way.
There were two main reasons that I chose A Woman of Integrity as the first book I would read and review via NetGalley, the above-stated theme being one of them. I was interested to see how the idea of maintaining one’s integrity was approached in the novel. The other primary reason I was drawn to reading A Woman of Integrity was the pretty cover. I love the bold font choices and the cute black and white sketch of a girl reading; it was the cover of the book which initially made me want to learn more about it.
That being said, there is far more to be celebrated about A Woman of Integrity than cover appeal. One of my favorite things about the novel was the use of sections of Georgie’s unpublished memoir and interviews to break up the more straightforward narrative of Laura’s story. The inclusion of this less linear second narrative helped to connect Laura to the woman she was trying to embody and to add dramatic pause to Laura’s story line. This structure gave A Woman of Integrity a fresh feel.
I was also fairly impressed with the characterization of Laura and Georgie. Both were well-written, strong women who cared immensely about preserving their authenticity and sense-of-self. Georgie was particularly interesting – if she were a woman at your family party rather than a character in a book, she could silence room when she told a story. As a girl she longed to be a star, and she became one as a silent film actress. When a choice between impropriety or integrity forced her out of the entertainment industry she went on to become an early pilot, have a beautiful romance, become a famous photographer. [Can anyone say life goals?] She was plucky and full of inspiration. Likewise, the characterization of many of the novel’s secondary characters was exceptional. Even minor characters were three-dimensional and clearly placed in the novels’ fictional world with thought and foresight.
My feelings about the style in which A Woman of Integrity was written are more ambivalent. At points I found myself struggling with the rhythm of the sentences and I thought some sections of dialogue were clunky and awkward. But at other moments I found myself completely taken in with the rhythm of the sentences I was reading, and the writing style felt great. For the majority of the book, however, the writing style just seemed okay.
As a reader who loves to write, connecting with the author’s writing style is quite essential. It is mainly for this reason that I cannot consider the book a 4/5 or 5/5. The only other aspect of A Woman of Integrity that was a disappointment was the ending. I won’t discuss it in detail to save you the experience of enjoying it (or not enjoying it, I guess) for yourself. The issue for me was a playing-up of “secrets” Laura would reveal about Georgie. These secrets weren’t really the big secrets they were made up to be. For one, the reader is made aware of one of these secrets earlier in the plot. So while Laura and a few friends may be the only people within the fictional world to know it, the secret isn’t a thrill for the reader. This would be okay had the second secret had any thrilling power, but the second secret turned out to not really be much of a secret at all. Because of this I couldn’t enjoy the final pages of A Woman of Integrity nearly as much as I had hoped to.
A Woman of Integrity, written by J. David Simons and due for release on March 16, 2017, is a lovely piece of well-crafted fiction. The fresh narrative approach and strong characterization made for a fun and worthwhile read. Anglophiles, lovers of women’s fiction, and fans of acting and aviation will all love A Woman of Integrity.
Thank you to NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review this novel before its release to the general public. All opinions in this review are my own.
How did you like the first NetGalley Review on Erynn Loves Books? Thoughts and constructive feedback are greatly appreciated.
Will you be reading A Woman of Integrity when it gets released next month?