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“I have read this book twice both for the book club. Like most things the first time I read with the common feelings which were Frederick Douglas was a dog! Second go round this may be true but in digging deeper I wondered more about why he dogged out women - was it because of not having true...”see full review » see other reviews »
“My Rating: 4.1/5
Excellent! The story of two loves and the portrayal of a man so focused and dedicated to his social purpose that, perhaps, he did not realize his full earthly potential.”
By Jewell Parker Rhodes
Ms. Rhodes is an excellent writer. Her research is nearly flawless, attest to her citations at the end of the book. Her added fiction builds a passionate, emotional story.
“Douglass’ Women” is about two very different women loving the same strong, ex-slave, abolitionist, a writer. I believe Ms. Rhodes knew Frederick Douglass had to be included in the story to understand his women. He is an escaped slave afraid of being enslaved again, even by the women in his life. Consequently, he juggles them, accepting their love with little emotional return.
Anna Murray Douglass is a free black woman. She’s the stronger of the two women, the realist. She gives her hard-earned money to Freddy to escape his slave master. He later marries her. Anna says Freddy is “Samson-man, standing, perched on the edge of his horizon.” She does not like the name Frederick Bailey Douglass, feels it beyond her as his mate. Anna is steadfast in her loyalty and self-confidence and suffers his infidelity.
Ottilie Assing, a German-Jewish woman, teaches him to read and write, and uses his ego and hatred of bondage to keep him near. He becomes Frederick to Ottilie. She is indispensable with her money and time helping him pursue his career. She clearly has a way out of the mistress role, but is too much of a romantic in love to accept the reality of her situation.
Both women suffer the pains of unreciprocated love, heartache from their “great man.” They learn Freddy/Frederick doesn’t tell either one he loves her. Anna says, “Freddy never really learned to love.”
I can only conclude that Frederick, husband, lover, and abolitionist is mentally disturbed as a result of his years as a slave. Freedom is the only thing he seems to focus on. This proves to create both bad and good events in his life. Nevertheless, he needs sexual love, takes it wherever he can get it, when he wants it. Yet, it does not interfere with his plans, in spite of the fact that he fathers five children with Anna. His intimate relationship with Ottilie beats his subconscious.
Frederick has no time for women’s suffrage — says that can come later. He refuses to admit that he is color conscious. He tells Rosetta “I’m married to an old black log. Would you repeat my mistake?” In speaking of his oldest daughter’s love interest, Lucius, he says, “We’re at war...Fighting for racial uplift. Not degradation.” And further says, “I raised you for better than this. Better than him.” Dear timid Lucius cannot read nor write, but loves Rosetta Douglass.
Every page kept me immersed, kept me wondering what next. Jewell Parker Rhodes penned vivid pictures of strong fictional characters, which reflects her understanding of humankind. What an excellent read!
July 6, 2011
“excellent and thought provoking..will write more review later!”Courtney H wrote this review Wednesday, September 22, 2010. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“This is a historical novel about the two women that Frederick Douglas "loved"--his black wife who paid for his freedom and a white, German woman who helped in his fight for abolition. I put love in quotes because while and after reading the novel, one has to contemplate whether he really knew what love was.”Karen wrote this review Thursday, September 16, 2010. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Read it twice!”Christie H wrote this review Friday, July 23, 2010. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“I have read this book twice both for the book club. Like most things the first time I read with the common feelings which were Frederick Douglas was a dog! Second go round this may be true but in digging deeper I wondered more about why he dogged out women - was it because of not having true relationships as a slave; scarred by his mother's absence, the times, or plain disrespect of women thinking they were beneath him? This is a good book that I look forward to discussing with others that read the book and not just comment on his involvement with multiple women. Jewell Parker Rhodes wrote this brilliantly and I am glad she took the time to explore the women involved with him. As a woman I hurt for them both but cried for Anna... ”Heather L wrote this review Saturday, October 23, 2010. ( reply | view 1 replies | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“ I know that historical fiction is loosely based on the truth, but if there is any shred of truth similar to the content of this book my estimation of Douglass has slipped a few nothces.”Kristi R wrote this review Saturday, April 17, 2010. ( reply | view 1 replies | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“informative, great read”Tony L wrote this review Monday, January 11, 2010. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“A well written novel that gives an account of Fredrick Douglass, that most people are unaware of”Cheryl F wrote this review Monday, November 30, 2009. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“I was leaning towards giving this book 5 stars. It was very well written yet, I thought, had a bit too many gratuitous sex scenes. It was an interesting take on Frederick Douglass' life. Although historical fiction, told from the perspectives of both his free black wife, Anna, and his white mistress, Ottilie, it was based on facts, which I had never before heard addressed. Even though Douglass, as we all know, was a hero for abolition, it does relate his human foibles. After reading it, I have more feelings for the women behind the man than the man himself. I don't think I would have sought this book out, but, finding it at aThrift House, I gave it a try and I'm glad I did. I really felt for his wife, Anna, and all the struggles she went thru.....loved the portrayal of her character and her remarkable strength! An interesting "triangle" story. A tale apropos for today with all the news stories of "elite peoples'" marriage betrayals. The more we change, the more we stay the same.”Marilyn L wrote this review Thursday, September 24, 2009. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No