Cristina Reads Too Much: The Secret Life of Mrs. London by Rebecca Rosenberg

Getting around to reading a book (other than a textbook) can be tough in college, we know this.  When you’re cramming in between classes, Her Campus Lasell’s got you covered.  

Introducing Cristina Reads Too Much, a weekly segment where we break down and spill the tea about the best books RN and give our honest reviews and ratings.


The Rundown:

Set over the course of two years (1915-1917), The Secret Life of Mrs. London is based on the story of American novelist Jack London’s second wife, Charmian.  Charmian acts as Jack’s editor and manager, ensuring that he reaches his self-imposed quota of one thousand words per day and refining his sometimes-garbled thoughts.  She’s an author in her own right too, and she’s eager to have her first novel published--but publishing houses are reluctant to work with women. When Charmian meets famous stage magician and escape artist Harry Houdini, everything changes.  She finds herself drawn to the fearless, rakish performer, and she quickly befriends his effervescent wife Bessie. Charmian’s sudden interest in Houdini causes Jack’s jealous streak to rear its ugly head, so not only does he do her bidding and have her debut novel published, he spirits her away to Hawaii.  While there, Charmian and Jack resume their respective roles of editor and doting husband, only for Charmian to run into Houdini again and develop romantic feelings for him. After Jack’s untimely death, Charmian leaves behind her idyllic life in California to seek out Houdini in New York. In New York City Charmian is able to carve out a life for herself--she has her second book published and rekindles her romance with Houdini, who had tried desperately to contact her through mysterious letters she couldn’t comprehend.  In many ways, she becomes her own woman while still acknowledging the impact her husband had on her.


My Thoughts:

Riveting, thought-provoking, and fascinating, The Secret Life of Mrs. London is the perfect read for Women’s History Month.  I’d never even heard of Charmian London until I happened upon this book, but it was interesting to learn about her role in Jack London’s success as a novelist.  Rebecca Rosenberg took some serious creative liberties in writing this book, but it’s just factual enough to be interesting historically. I found the plot to be a bit confusing at times that I had to go back and reread pages, but otherwise it’s a beautifully written and engaging story.  If you like learning about women in history or just appreciate history in general, you won’t be able to put down The Secret Life of Mrs. London.

My rating:

4.5 out of 5 stars

Favorite Quote:

“There’s never enough time.  Time runs out no matter how enduring it seems in the moment.  The scents of plumeria and sea salt. The triumph of a shiny trophy.  Sea sprays pelting our cheeks. And words. True words, poetic words, provocative words rendered in black ink and blood on the printed page”