Sprawling, panoramic, epic, clever, brilliant—all these adjectives easily describe Rushforth's portrait of a woman who views the world with penetrating eyes.

Considered "special" by her family, Alice Pinkerton (sister of Ben Pinkerton from Madame Butterfly) is cared for by her indulgent family, who fear she totters on the brink of sanity.

Alice creates a world for herself in the books that enrich her life. She immerses herself in everything from the Bronte sisters' gothic romances to Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde and Walt Whitman. She uses what she reads to make keen observations about the people around her, and her sharp insights and caustic wit are much like her beloved Jane Austen. For one secluded from the "real" world, Alice understands society, politics and culture better than most of her contemporaries.

Rushforth brilliantly makes the most of literary references, allowing Alice to become an extraordinary wordsmith. Her humorous take on the near destruction of Michelangelo's David will have you smiling for days—and pleased with yourself that you were clever enough to spend the time (this is a nearly 800-page book) with a character you've come to care about.

Pinkerton's Sister gives you a new appreciation for books and for the author's astute understanding of people and novels. (Mar., 730 pp., $26.00)
Reviewed by: 
Kathe Robin