“Interesting history of a variety of subjects. Nonfiction. Short and a quick read. More of an informative book.”Cathleen B wrote this review Monday, December 31, 2012. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Only a true writer can mail it in and still create and enjoyable and engaging book. This is the case with historian Jill Lepore's latest, The Mansion of Happiness. Professor Lepore is a brilliant mind with a gift for wordplay as well as, as one of the comments on the jacket points out, spinning yarns about real-life charlatans.
The book's theme is life and death; specifically, how these concepts have been understood at various points in American history. With this broad mandate, Prof. Lepore selects characters and setting that illustrate a particular theme, including birth, childhood, and death. Each chapter is interesting and compelling.
Two things prevent me from giving this five stars (and, hopefully, support my "mailing it in" argument). First, the chapters have little to do with each other and are tied together only by the fact that they have something to do with life and/or death (doesn't everything?). This is an inevitable consequence of creating a book out of separately published articles. Second, the book is not, strictly speaking, history. Historian David Hackett Fischer has defined history (to paraphrase) as an attempt to answer an open-ended historical question by way of an argument supported by objective evidence. The Mansion of Happiness does not pose any particular question, nor does it make any particular argument. To be sure, one of the themes of the story is that ideas change over time, and "venerable" social ideas are, more often than not, of recent vintage. This is a valuable lesson, but not "history" in its truest sense. To be fair, the book is intended as general reading and is not promoted as vigorous historical argument.
Whatever the book is, it's an enjoyable read that I wholeheartedly recommend. Prof. Lepore is a gifted writer, and it's a pleasure to explore the past with her.”
“Didn't finish”Kathy wrote this review Friday, August 17, 2012. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Not like anything I have ever read before. Author has meticulously researched the history of society's changing attitudes regarding all the milestones of the human existence: the beginning, end and progress of our lives. It is part sociology, part medical history and a big part of clever details of historical facts to keep interest.”Bizzybunny wrote this review Monday, July 16, 2012. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
““A series of engaging and wonderfully perceptive essays on how individuals caught in time made sense of life and death. Jill Lepore is one of America's most accomplished and imaginative historians." –Linda Colley, author of The Ordeal of Elizabeth Marsh ”Brooke wrote this review Sunday, July 1, 2012. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No