The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 1-11-15

Sunday Post

It’s Sunday and it’s freezing – do you know how your pipes are doing? We’ve lived in both Anchorage and Chicago, so it is always amusing to hear people get freaked when the temperature just drops into the 20s for a day or two someplace that normally has much better weather in the winter. (The first time I heard a freeze warning in Florida I had to pull my car over, I was laughing so hard).

But isn’t all this cold weather a perfect time to curl up with a good cat and a great book? Or the other way around, just ask the cat.

Current Giveaways:

$25 Gift Card + a copy of The Yankee Club by Michael Murphy

dirty deeds by rhys fordBlog Recap:

B Review: The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore
B+ Review: All that Glitters by Michael Murphy + Giveaway
A Review: Dirty Deeds by Rhys Ford
A Review: Digging for Richard III by Mike Pitts
B+ Review: Down and Dirty by Rhys Ford
Stacking the Shelves (117)



dreaming-of-books-2015Coming Next Week:

After the War is Over by Jennifer Robson (blog tour review)
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (review)
Windy City Blues by Marc Krulewitch (blog tour review
The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell (review)
Dreaming of Books Giveaway Hop
City of Liars and Thieves by Eve Karlin (blog tour review)

Review: The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore

secret history of wonder woman by jill leporeFormat read: ebook provided by Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, ebook, paperback, audiobook
Genre: nonfiction
Length: 432 pages
Publisher: Knopf
Date Released: October 28, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

A riveting work of historical detection revealing that the origin of one of the world’s most iconic superheroes hides within it a fascinating family story—and a crucial history of twentieth-century feminism

Wonder Woman, created in 1941, is the most popular female superhero of all time. Aside from Superman and Batman, no superhero has lasted as long or commanded so vast and wildly passionate a following. Like every other superhero, Wonder Woman has a secret identity. Unlike every other superhero, she has also has a secret history.

Harvard historian and New Yorker staff writer Jill Lepore has uncovered an astonishing trove of documents, including the never-before-seen private papers of William Moulton Marston, Wonder Woman’s creator. Beginning in his undergraduate years at Harvard, Marston was influenced by early suffragists and feminists, starting with Emmeline Pankhurst, who was banned from speaking on campus in 1911, when Marston was a freshman. In the 1920s, Marston and his wife, Sadie Elizabeth Holloway, brought into their home Olive Byrne, the niece of Margaret Sanger, one of the most influential feminists of the twentieth century. The Marston family story is a tale of drama, intrigue, and irony. In the 1930s, Marston and Byrne wrote a regular column for Family Circle celebrating conventional family life, even as they themselves pursued lives of extraordinary nonconformity. Marston, internationally known as an expert on truth—he invented the lie detector test—lived a life of secrets, only to spill them on the pages of Wonder Woman.

The Secret History of Wonder Woman is a tour de force of intellectual and cultural history. Wonder Woman, Lepore argues, is the missing link in the history of the struggle for women’s rights—a chain of events that begins with the women’s suffrage campaigns of the early 1900s and ends with the troubled place of feminism a century later.

My Review:

Wonder Woman has often been presented as an icon of feminism. Admittedly, she looks like feminism for the male gaze, with her abbreviated and skin-tight uniform of bustier and increasingly short shorts, but the principles that she espouses, at least when she is being drawn by someone who cares, are generally considered feminist.

If Wonder Woman’s history in the comic books is often convoluted, as DC Comics continually revises, retcons and retools the origin stories for their superheroes, the story of how she was created was possibly even stranger.

There’s also an amount of “small world” feeling that surrounds her creation. She was created by a man who believed that what he was propagating were first-wave feminist values, in spite of the life he lived being something rather different. At the same time, everyone seems to have known everyone. There’s a weird straight line between the creation of Wonder Woman and the invention of the birth control pill. In this history, that line has a couple of kinks in it.

Wonder Woman was created by William Moulton Marston in 1942 during the Golden Age of comic books. Marston’s life was somewhat of a comic book all by itself, but no one seems to have been aware of it at the time, including his children. That’s part of what made this story so fascinating.

In the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s, Marston lived at the head of an extremely unconventional household. His wife, Sadie Holloway, embodied the feminist principles that he inserted into Wonder Woman. She was the primary breadwinner, working at the executive level in various industries, including insurance, and was also an editor.

In addition to supporting Marston and their children, Sadie was also supporting the other woman in Marston’s life, Olive Byrne Richard, and the two children Marston had with her. In return for her involvement in this unusual arrangement, Olive Byrne became the caretaker for Holloway’s children with Marston in addition to her own.

Olive Byrne was the niece of Margaret Sanger, the famous (sometimes infamous) birth control advocate, so Marston knew Sanger.

Marston was also the originator of the lie-detector test, even though his design was not the one that went into widespread use.

The story in The Secret History of Wonder Woman is not a publication history of the comic, although there is a bit of that. Instead, it is a biography of the eccentric group of people who made the original Wonder Woman, and a fascinating look at how their unconventional lives and Marston’s unusual psychological theories about love and dominance made their way into the iconic character of Wonder Woman.

Reality Rating B: This is one of those stories that can only be true, because an attempt to fictionalize it would run past anyone’s willing suspension of disbelief.

As narrative, it takes a while to get into, but the journey is definitely worth the ride. At least partially because it’s such a surprise.

Marston certainly believed that the ideas he was promoting in Wonder Woman were aligned with first-wave feminism. After reading this book, I can’t say that I believe it, but I can see that he did. He also had a lot of very strange theories about the power of love and submission both being ultimately stronger than violence and dominance and being what women really needed. Again, not saying I believe it, or that anyone outside his immediate household believed his theories very long, but he did embody those theories in Wonder Woman.

On that other hand, he used both his wife and his mistress as models for different aspects of Wonder Woman’s personality and some of her costume and gadgetry. It also seems like Wonder Woman is the only thing he managed to succeed at, and the rest of the time he was a supposedly enlightened despot overseeing the household that was maintained for his convenience by his two “wives”.

There was a certain amount of bravery on everyone’s part in living a very unconventional life-style, but it seems as if it mostly benefitted him, which doesn’t seem feminist at all. Marston also used the Wonder Woman narrative as a way of poking none too gentle fun at various academics and officials who had derided his theories in the early part of his career.

Whatever he may have voiced regarding the power of women, Marston described all the many and varied ways in which Wonder Woman gets chained and bound, over and over, with a little too much loving detail to sit comfortably with readers who equate Wonder Woman with feminism. It feels like a disconnect between what he said and what he did, and one wonders why no one pointed it out at the time.

All in all, the way that Marston’s real life and theories inserted themselves into Wonder Woman is strangely compelling. The way that first-wave feminism was both promulgated and ultimately rejected by Wonder Woman when it changed hands reflects the change in women’s status after World War II. The backdrop history of the fear of comic books’ influence on children and the rise of censorship is reminiscent of the trials of both television violence and video games that have occurred in more recent times. Some things that have happened before are happening over and over.

This book reads much more like a biography of Marston than a history of Wonder Woman. Still, where those two intersect, and how, is fascinating.

Reviewer’s note: This book is not as long as it initially appears. While reading on my Kindle app, I was 65% completed when the narrative ended and the extensive footnotes began. It’s great to see how well researched the book is, but I thought it had a lot longer to go.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 1-4-15

Sunday Post

It’s still a wonderful time of the year, even if the holidays are over. The days are getting longer again, and the weather should be getting better in a couple of months. While it is still surprisingly warm here in Atlanta, I remember January as being the worst month of the year in too many places I’ve lived. The days were very short, often very cold, and everything was gray and gloomy. But hey, it’s already January 4, so there are only 27 days left in the month.

SFRQ Issue5-CoverLooking ahead to next week, I know that The Secret History of Wonder Woman has been on my “coming next week” list three weeks in a row. I’ve actually finished it this time and it was fascinating. Also about 35% of the length of the book is in the footnotes, so it was a bit shorter than I was expecting, too.

And for all you science fiction romance lovers out there, the latest edition of the Sci-Fi Romance Quarterly was released on December 31, 2014. All new articles, stories and reviews (some by yours truly). Kaz and Company put together another fabulous treat for SFR readers.

Winner Announcements:

The winner of the $10 Gift Card in the Christmas Wonder Giveaway Hop is Rose S.

phoenix rising by corrina lawsonBlog Recap:

B+ Review: Mercenary Instinct by Ruby Lionsdrake
14 for 14: My Best Books of the Year
A- Review: Phoenix Rising by Corrina Lawson
New Year’s Day 2015
15 for 15: My Most Anticipated Books for 2015
Stacking the Shelves (116)




all that glitters by michael murphyComing Next Week:

Dirty Deeds (Cole McGinnis #4) by Rhys Ford (review)
All That Glitters by Michael Murphy (blog tour review)
The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore (review)
Digging for Richard III by Mike Pitts (review)
Down and Dirty by Rhys Ford (review)

The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 12-28-14

Sunday Post

I reserve the right to change my mind. I thought I was going to get to the Best of 2014 post last week, but well, I gave myself a present for the holidays and read a couple of books just for fun instead of diving through the backfile to figure out which books this year were best. So this week instead. Because of the holidays, there isn’t much going on in general this week. No tours because this is probably not a good week for traffic for anyone.

Even though Xmas is over, there are still a few days left to enter the Christmas Wonder Giveaway Hop.

Life returns to normal, or what passes for normal around here, next week.

christmas wonderfinalCurrent Giveaways:

$10 Amazon or B&N Gift Card in the Christmas Wonder Giveaway Hop (ends 12/31)

Winner Announcements:

The winner of the $10 Amazon Gift Card in the Winter Warm Up Hop is: Linda T.
The winner of the ebook copy of Vacant by Alex Hughes is: Rhianna W.

damnation by jean johnsonBlog Recap:

A- Review: Thirteen Days in September by Lawrence Wright
B+ Review: Butternut Lake: The Night Before Christmas by Mary McNear
A+ Review: Damnation by Jean Johnson
Chrismukkah 2014
B- Review: The Quick and the Undead by Kimberly Raye
Stacking the Shelves (115)



secret history of wonder woman by jill leporeComing Next Week:

Mercenary Instinct (Mandrake Company #1) by Ruby Lionsdrake
The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore (review)
Best Books of 2014
Most Anticipated Books of 2015

The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 12-21-14

Sunday Post

It is SO much easier to do Stacking the Shelves and this Sunday Post with my double-screen monitors and my desktop PC. I love the idea of laptops, and the ability to carry one around wherever (especially traveling) but I find a desktop keyboard tons easier to work with. I tend to rest my hands on the edge of the keyboard, but when I do that on a laptop, it does things. Sometimes, bigger is better.

winter warm up blog hopWhile there is only one winner this weekend, there is still time to enter the December blog hops. The Winter Warm Up ends on Tuesday, and the Christmas Wonder Giveaway Hop will be here until the end of the month.

Current Giveaways:

$50 Amazon Gift Card in the Deadly, Calm and Cold Blog Tour
$10 Amazon or B&N Gift Card in the Winter Warm Up Blog Hop
$10 Amazon or B&N Gift Card in the Christmas Wonder Giveaway Hop

Winner Announcements:

The winner of The Wanderer’s Children by L.G. O’Connor is Debra G.

tethered by pippa jayBlog Recap:

B+ Review: The Tears of the Rose by Jeffe Kennedy
B+ Review: Deadly Calm and Cold by Susannah Sandlin + Giveaway
B Guest Review by Galen: Moriarty by Anthony Horowitz
B+ Review: Tethered by Pippa Jay
Winter Warm Up Blog Hop
Stacking the Shelves (114)



night before christmas by mary mcnearComing Next Week:

Thirteen Days in September by Lawrence Wright (review)
Damnation by Jean Johnson (review)
Butternut Lake: The Night Before Christmas by Mary McNear (review)
Best Books of 2014