Murder in the Metro -- Laetitia Toureaux and the Cagoule in 1930s France by Gayle K. Brunelle and Annette Finley-Croswhite, Louisiana UP '10, $39.95, 266 pages, ISBN #0807136166. Index, bibliography, source notes, grouping of b&w images.
In a nonfiction narrative that grips the reader like a novel, the authors revisit Paris of the 1930s, when political ferment of the left and right was percolating towards an inevitable, all-out war. The protagonist is lovely Laetitia Toureaux, whose life as a spy ends with a knife in her throat on the Paris Metro. The officially unsolved crime was linked to a semi-secret organization named the "Cagoule," meaning hood or cowl. This right-wing cult's role was to provoke a Communist insurrection, which it planned to counter and install a monarchial or Mussolini-style dictatorship in France. Gayle K. Brunelle is professor of history at California State University at Fullerton. Annette Finley-Croswhite is professor of history and department chair at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA.
The Scandal of Susan Sontag, Edited by Barbara Ching and Jennifer A. Wagner-Lawlor, Columbia UP '09 paperback. $24.50, 288 pages, ISBN #0231149174. Index, bibliography, contributors, endnotes following each essay, unillustrated.
Not only did Susan Sontag scandalize her readers in writing frankly and boldly about theater, torture, illness, and politics, write the editors, but her living itself "was the embodiment of scandal." A wide range of scholars here revisit Sontag's oeuvre and "question Sontag's status as a female intellectual and her parallel interest in ambitious and prophetic fictional women; her ambivalence toward popular culture; and her personal and professional 'scandals,' such as the accusations of anti-Americanism that followed her essay on 9/11." Editor Barbara Ching is associate professor of English at the University of Memphis. Editor Jennifer A. Wagner-Lawlor is associate professor of women's studies and English at Penn State.
Shadows in the Valley -- A Cultural History of Illness, Death, and Loss in New England, 1840--1916 by Alan C. Swedlund, UMass. Press '10 paperback. $28.95, 272 pages, ISBN
#155849720X. Index, notes, no bibliography, b&w images sprinkled through text.
My wife's grandmother bore 14 children, only 7 of whom survived to adulthood. Having lived through the loss of a grandchild, I've always wondered how parents could summon up that kind of grief 7 times. In this fascinating new book, the author's narrative is told in "life-course time," in which "the early chapters look at issues of infancy and childhood in the 1840s and 1850s and the last chapters at the problems of old age after 1900," describing the wide variety of treatments and coping mechanisms used by specific people and families. Alan Swedlund is professor emeritus of anthropology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.