The year 1895 was filled with memorable historical events: the Dreyfus Affair divided France; Booker T. Washington gave his Atlanta address; Richard Olney, United States Secretary of State, expanded the effects of the Monroe Doctrine in settling a boundary dispute between the United Kingdom and Venezuela; and Oscar Wilde was tried and convicted for gross indecency under Britain’s recently passed law that made sex between males a criminal offense. When news of Wilde’s conviction went out over telegraphs worldwide, it threw a small Nevada town into chaos. This is the story of what happened when the lives of its citizens were impacted by the news of Oscar Wilde’s imprisonment. It is a chronicle of hatred and prejudice with all its unintended and devastating consequences, and how love and friendship bring strength and healing.
(Synopsis and image via Goodreads)
The synopsis states clearly time and place and, most importantly, world circumstances which will soon impact the lives of two women, Mildred Dunlap and her cousin, Edra. The two have lived in the same family since girlhood and until Edra announces to Mildred her love for her. However, no one else knows of their relationship as lovers.
Core to the story is a fatal flaw in the human character bearing the label “gossip.” In the small Nevada town Mildred and Edra call home, the female population thrives on gossip of any kind. But once word of Oscar Wilde’s arrest for indecency based on his sexual relationship with another male is on the wind, the gossips are ready to have a go at Mildred and Edra whom they “suspect” of similar circumstances.
The book is well written, plotted, and thought out. There are a couple of instances of what, in my opinion, rank as current day colloquialisms, “freaking out” and use of the words, “babysit” and “babysitting.” It seems words more suited to the late 1800s would have given the book a greater sense of authority and professionalism. However, the instances are few enough not to distort the story line for the reader.
Character development is exceptionally well done. The characters are typical of time and place, and their behaviors sometimes verge on the comedic giving the book light moments amid other, more dark scenes.
Once the synopsis is read, you might almost look at it and envision today’s world. We live in times very similar. Fortunately, many states have resolved issues resolving gay and lesbian relationships but there will always be those who wish to find fault with or judge others based on life choices. I do not understand why, nor do I want to know how they find themselves so well suited for the judgment seat.
If you are a fan of historical fiction and LGBT fiction, I believe you will enjoy reading The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap. Paulette Mahurin has taken the time to bring us a tale which could be written for today. She located and placed a quotation from Oscar Wilde which perfectly suited the chapter following. A very nice touch bridging yesterday’s history with today’s history.
The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap by Paulette Mahurin
Published: July 10, 2012
Genre: Fiction / Historical Fiction / Adult Fiction
Edition: Kindle edition, 204 pages
Miscellaneous: Meet and connect with Paulette Mahurin at her Goodreads author page.