A vividly original literary novel based on the astounding true-life story of Laura Bridgman, the first deaf and blind person who learned language and blazed a trail for Helen Keller.
At age two, Laura Bridgman lost four of her five senses to scarlet fever. At age seven, she was taken to Perkins Institute in Boston to determine if a child so terribly afflicted could be taught. At age twelve, Charles Dickens declared her his prime interest for visiting America. And by age twenty, she was considered the nineteenth century's second most famous woman, having mastered language and charmed the world with her brilliance.
Not since The Diving Bell and the Butterfly has a book proven so profoundly moving in illuminating the challenges of living in a completely unique inner world.
With Laura-by turns mischievous, temperamental, and witty-as the book's primary narrator, the fascinating kaleidoscope of characters includes the founder of Perkins Institute, Samuel Gridley Howe, with whom she was in love; his wife, the glamorous Julia Ward Howe, a renowned writer, abolitionist, and suffragist; Laura's beloved teacher, who married a missionary and died insane from syphilis; an Irish orphan with whom Laura had a tumultuous affair; Annie Sullivan; and even the young Helen Keller.
Deeply enthralling and rich with lyricism, WHAT IS VISIBLE chronicles the breathtaking experiment that Laura Bridgman embodied and its links to the great social, philosophical, theological, and educational changes rocking Victorian America. Given Laura's worldwide fame in the nineteenth century, it is astonishing that she has been virtually erased from history. WHAT IS VISIBLE will set the record straight.
PARTICULARS OF THE BOOK :
Published by Grand Central/Hachette Publishing
Genre: Historical Fiction
Author: Kimberly Elkins
ABOUT THE AUTHOR :
Kimberly Elkins was a finalist for the National Magazine Award and has published fiction and nonfiction in the Atlantic, Best New American Voices, Iowa Review, Chicago Tribune, Glamour, and Village Voice, among others. WHAT IS VISIBLE is her first novel.
THE BOOKISH DAME REVIEWS :
When I decided to preview this novel on Netgalley with a "taste" of the book, I never thought I would be caught up, leading me to purchase it just so I could finish the story. This is a fascinating account of Laura Bridgman, the very first known woman who was both deaf and blind, and who learned to communicate. It is a book I imagine will mesmerize everyone. I was held rapt, absolutely.
While "What Is Visible" is a historical novel, Kimberly Elkins writes with such grace and delicacy that it flies off the pages as a real account. Absorbing and disturbing at times, it's a book I couldn't put down and raced through the night hoping to finish. It took me longer than I had eyes to keep open!
Each of the characters she describes are vivid in their every day lives in her novel. I was completely engaged with Laura and the Doctor. I was drawn in like a voyeur, able to see what a magnificent and complicated person Laura was, and how she loved the Doctor who sculpted her life. I think the underlying study of what her inner life might have been like was most compelling. This is a novel with teeth, but also with a strong heart at the center. Laura seems to reach for us from its pages and she touches us!
I can't say enough about the genius of Ms Elkins's writing. The novel is beautifully crafted. The characters engender caring and tender feelings. The story is moving. You can tell her heart is in this book.
This is a must read!
5 stars Deborah/TheBookishDame