Blog Book Tour | “Woman Enters Left” by Jessica Brockmole The novel which brings Jorie full-circle into the heart of #Epistolary Fiction by the author who penned Elspeth’s story!

Posted Sunday, 8 October, 2017 by jorielov , , , , , 1 Comment

Book Review badge created by Jorie in Canva using Unsplash.com photography (Creative Commons Zero).

Acquired Book By: I am a regular tour hostess for blog tours via Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours whereupon I am thankful to have been able to host such a diverse breadth of stories, authors and wonderful guest features since I became a hostess! I received a complimentary copy of “Woman Enters Left” direct from the publisher Ballantine Books in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

Why I wanted to read this release and a note about why I had to postpone participating in the blog tour: or rather, (if you prefer) how Jorie is a lot like Ms Brockmole in her passion for Ephemera & the Historical Past!

I still remember when ‘At the Edge of Summer’ released and how enthused I was for the ‘next’ Jessica Brockmole novel – as she had truly captured everything I love about narrative prose in a uniquely stylised novel within her debut of “Letters from Skye”. Although, her sophomore release was strikingly different than her debut – I was still keenly interested in reading it – could have theoretically as my local library purchased a copy of it, however, it is one of the many titles I’ve placed myself in a holds queue to receive, finding the hours eclipsing off my clock as soon as it arrives to be read! Ergo, it’s her third novel ‘Woman Enters Left’ which is my second reading of hers, rather than my third entreaty into her literary style.

And, what a treat is is for me! I personally *love!* anything to do with the historic past and everything associated with ‘vintage or ephemera’! The two are not connected – as by the ‘historic past’ this is a broad stroke I’m using to talk about how large in scope History is to explore through literary fiction whereas when I refer to ‘vintage’ and ‘ephemera’ I’m talking about a more specific time period – generally contained within the 20th Century, though with some leanings into the 19th.

I first stumbled into vintage art practices when I took up small (mixed media) art collages in my late twenties – if your familiar with Tim Holtz, you know a smidge about what I’m referring too. Let’s just say ‘distressed inks’ were one of the greatest inventions! lol Resources such as vintage image and ephemeral discs curated by collectors and artists themselves helped move the artistic style forward for those of us unable to collect as much as we’d prefer!

However, despite taking a hiatus from my artistic wanderings (as I traded in my mixed media supplies for fibre; hereinafter being Knitty!) I still remember browsing through early-attic shoppes, vintage emporiums, yesteryear auction houses and thrift shoppes of all kinds – seeking not only the obvious, the tangible bits of the past (ie. Postcards, Letters, Photographs, etc) but the not so obvious – the artwork, the jewelry, the furniture, the quilts and the china! Have you ever just humbly browsed the dish rooms at these places? Still my soul!

You can step through a portal of time – not just observing the changes in technology and manufacturing but you can ‘touch’ time itself. You can peer into people’s lives simply by what is left behind after they’ve past on from this world and rightly, start to piece back together a fragment of ordinary life in specific time periods! This is one reason I’ve been drawn into Historical Fiction (and all it’s lovely sub-genres) – it’s a fusion of what is known, what is suspected and what is investigated (or rather sleuthed out) by writers to become ‘re-known’ once again.

I definitely could relate to the conversation with Ms Brockmole in the back of ‘Woman Enters Left’ about how one tangible fragment of the past can hold one of the keys to re-immersion into a time period earnestly being sought in today’s 21st Century world. It is similar to why I dreamt of owning a retro (manual) typewriter and was happily surprised when I saw a late 1930s/early 1940s Royal being gifted to me by my Mum and Dad a few years ago! It still needs a good cleaning and some new ink – but guess what? It still types! It is only one of many I shall be collecting to use – as I truly want to ink out my fiction and poetry on vintage typewriters – I started off with an electric typewriter before I moved to typing my words on a computer – something never quite ‘clicked’ as having the same attachment of ‘centre’ for me.

Computers are lovely (don’t get me wrong!) however, I think the Typosphere has one thing right: sometimes going back a few steps has more freedom than taking a leap forward. The Typosphere for those who are unfamiliar is a collective of typewriting bloggers – wherein, they ‘type’ their blog posts on ‘typewriters’ (most of which are vintage & retrofitted) then scanning their ‘posts’ to upload into their ‘blogs’ – hence it’s called “The Typosphere”. It’s quite the charming collective! I stumbled into their community several years ago whilst seeking out the ‘letter writers’ in our world of technology – as I’ve been a letter writer since I was eleven years old with perhaps, a decade of hiatus between then and now. It’s something I’m working towards returning too in full haste, as I do miss communicating through postal mail. There is a ‘whole’ world within the internet where people are scaling back their technologic presence and re-affirming things of the past which still are relevant for today. For those who are curious – point your browser to The Letter Writers Alliance, it’s a good place to start! Whilst the blog at The Missive Maven will be your best gateway into the community at large! If you’d like to see my Royal, direct your mouse to this Post!

In regards to the delay in my participation the blog tour, I hinted about the reason in brief during my Sunday Post; however, it is my absolute joy to have read this novel this first week of October as it was a wonderful reunion with an author I already admired and a novelist who entices us all into a special perspective on the past which has a breadth of wonder all of it’s own.

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.com

Notation on Cover Art: The arrangement of the cover design is right on ‘point’ to the title and has the best authentic to the era cognition you are hoping to find about a story which hinges on the legacy of a Mum re-visited through her daughter whose about to re-trace her steps quite unexpectedly on Route 66! Even the car, looks exactly how I was envisioning it whilst I was reading the story-line and I love her outfit!

Blog Book Tour | “Woman Enters Left” by Jessica Brockmole The novel which brings Jorie full-circle into the heart of #Epistolary Fiction by the author who penned Elspeth’s story!Woman Enters Left
by Jessica Brockmole
Source: Publisher via Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

A woman sets out on a cross-country road trip, unknowingly tracing in reverse the path her mother traveled thirty years before.

In the 1950s, movie star Louise Wilde is caught between an unfulfilling acting career and a shaky marriage when she receives an out-of-the-blue phone call: She has inherited the estate of Florence “Florrie” Daniels, a Hollywood screenwriter she barely recalls meeting. Among Florrie’s possessions are several unproduced screenplays, personal journals, and—inexplicably—old photographs of Louise’s mother, Ethel. On an impulse, Louise leaves a film shoot in Las Vegas and sets off for her father’s house on the East Coast, hoping for answers about the curious inheritance and, perhaps, about her own troubled marriage.

Nearly thirty years earlier, Florrie takes off on an adventure of her own, driving her Model T westward from New Jersey in pursuit of broader horizons. She has the promise of a Hollywood job and, in the passenger seat, Ethel, her best friend since childhood. Florrie will do anything for Ethel, who is desperate to reach Nevada in time to reconcile with her husband and reunite with her daughter. Ethel fears the loss of her marriage; Florrie, with long-held secrets confided only in her journal, fears its survival.

In parallel tales, the three women—Louise, Florrie, Ethel—discover that not all journeys follow a map. As they rediscover their carefree selves on the road, they learn that sometimes the paths we follow are shaped more by our traveling companions than by our destinations.

Places to find the book:

Borrow from a Public Library

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ISBN: 9780399178511

Also by this author: Letters from Skye, Cover Reveal: Fall of Poppies: Stories of Love and the Great War

Genres: Epistolary | Letters & Correspondences, Historical Fiction


Published by Ballantine Books

on 8th August, 2017

Format: Paperback Edition

Pages: 337

Published By: Ballantine Books,
an imprint of Random House Publishing Group

Converse via: #HistFic, #HistoricalFiction + #Epistolary

About Jessica Brockmole

Jessica Brockmole

Jessica Brockmole is the author of At the Edge of Summer, the internationally bestselling Letters from Skye, which was named one of the best books of 2013 by Publishers Weekly, and Something Worth Landing For, a novella featured in Fall of Poppies: Stories of Love and the Great War. She lives in northern Indiana with her husband, two children, and far too many books.

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My Review of Woman Enters Left:

On the footheels of exiting the exuberant world of Old Hollywood through the pen and passion of Renee Patrick*, I hadn’t thought I’d re-enter this glitzy slice of Hollywood history by picking up ‘Woman Enters Left’! It’s a bit more subdued than the thrills of a Patrick novel, as there is a difference in era and momentum of story-line – as Brockmole is not writing a mystery (per se) she’s writing an intuitive novel which begs the question how ‘best to step back into someone’s shoes after they’ve died’? Her lead character is fascinating from the moment she ‘steps into scene’ as that is exactly what she does – she enters left, as in ‘stage left’, a theatre queue – to guide your eyes to attach onto her, nettle out a curiosity about what motivates her and to follow wherever she may lead you.

She takes you directly to a reading of a will by a woman she first believed she had no affiliation and soon, finds not only a thread of connection to her late mother but a firm attachment to this recently deceased screen-writer’s scripts! I smiled inwardly knowing what she’d do even before Brockmole revealled it – who could leave all those scripts on a shelf? The curiosity was too tempting and even, as she (Louise) did muse ‘all of this’ was rightly hers now, who’d take the chance to leave them behind?

Louise doesn’t have an easy home life – her husband served in Korea, returning back half the man he was before he left (a shell of whom she even remembered) – where even the simplest of gestures like a home-cooked meal is a difficult exercise in patience for Louise. Her husband doesn’t want his wife to be close to him or do anything for him – whether it’s cooking food or helping him change his clothes; he’s emotionally and psychologically shut-down. She even tries to stir his interest by talking about the scripts she’d love to star in (the ones from Florrie; the ones she’s unexpectedly inherited) but it is worse than trying to pull stubborn teeth! Her husband has given up on living and until he chooses to live again, she’s uncertain how to pull him out of his self-disciplined funk. (today, I’d believe he’d be considered suffering through PTSD)

She reaches her max when she talks about taking a suspension from pictures; of trying to fight for script approval and of seeing if she can produce some of Florrie’s scripts; her husband Arnie isn’t himself, the fighter inside him has gone missing. Feeling the resolve leaving her bones, she does what any wife would do when faced with the same situation; she takes the lesser road, to own to the responsibilities and to continue onward if only to survive another week or month. There are quiet exchanges between her and Arnie – where she sees how far he’s drifted away from himself and how, somewhere in the darkness of trying to step around his moods, she’s allowed herself to disappear as well. She’s a fraction of an illusion of the woman she wants to be suspended between the past and the future.

It is here where Brockmole first introduces a quote from one of Florrie’s scripts – the one which interests Louise the most: When She Was King. The dialogue matches well against the backdrop of Louise’s life – of how sometimes in order to go forward, you have to meet the uneasiness of your actions with a determined focus of hope. The novel takes it’s first ‘slip’ back into the 1920s now – where the rest of the cast is sure to come into focus, here I would muse would be where we see the entrance of Louise’s mother and Florrie, herself. In true fashion of a Brockmole novel, she charms you with ‘lists’ of everyday necessity items – where little scratches of life are added in-between the meals, petrol prices and groceries. It was one such disclosure that struck you odd to be included in such an off-handed way – right there, on the order of the dinner menu, where two porkchops suddenly become a plate of one, as a husband has left a wife. It was so very matter-of-fact, you wondered if the person who wrote the note was allowing the loss to fully affect her in that moment or if she were in denial of the changes ahead.

We barely get a glimpse of Florrie setting out on the road, of learning whose husband had left which wife (no, it wasn’t Florrie!) and of the reasons why Florrie was inspired to take the route she was choosing to drive West. You have to give her credit – there are moments in life where you feel if you could just get in the car and drive – to find someplace new, of visiting someplace else, you might come across what feels more like home than the place you’ve always have known. Sometimes a road trip can clear the senses and give you a fresh perspective, too. Sometimes, just ‘getting away’ is the best way in which to entreat back into your life but with a different attitude about what you want out of the life your living. All told, road trips are cleansing to the soul but they give you back a lot of clarity and joy, too. It’s the journey you take whilst your on the road which makes the difference; the hours you’ve spent travelling here to there and everywhere that re-defines those pieces of your spirit which needed to feel a bit more free than caught up in the momentum of your regular routines.

Just as we’re settled alongside Florrie, we swing back into Louise’s timeline – such is the nature of ‘time slips’ and narratives like these. You get a hankering for knowing ‘more’ in each new timeline your visiting but it takes patience to let the story tell it’s own tale in the timing it’s been given to disclose it.

Louise has a mind conflicted between what she knows she is expected to do (arrive on set in Vegas or lose her future options) but out on the open road – there are other possibilities she’s finding are more appealing than ‘doing what is expected’. The one sad exchange is when a kind bloke (Duane) confided in her about his marriage, she didn’t talk about her own; about how she understands the gulf of emptiness which can stand between a returned soldier and his wife; of how moving past war is complicated. She chose to grow in anger (which was a true reaction of it’s own) and not give him anything to chew on; except a small takeaway he might have overlooked.

I love how Florrie and Ethel (Louise’s Mum) fashioned out their kit on the road! They used their car as the mainstay of the ‘tent’ – meaning, the car stood proud in the middle providing privacy for dressing but once you exited either door, you were in your own ‘room’ out in the wilds! I thought it was quite clever but also, highly efficient for travelling! Even how they had their cookware and stove proportioned was quite economical! I was most impressed by the small details Brockmole included – especially as travelling in this way is not as well-known today, as camp sites are properly outfitted and rigged to occupy so much these days from RVs to campers to tents – it seems like the days of roughing it like Florrie and Ethel have disappeared due to modern hook-ups and full accommodations (ie. Clean restrooms, showers, laundry, etc). It gave you a clue into what they were going through – as you noticed even in the absence of a lot of notations from the road, they really were just ‘driving through’ America with only a wing of a prayer to get them from point a to b!

Louise is following a ghost trail from her own past without realising what is guiding her compass until she re-visits a ranch in Southern Nevada. Here, the dust and dryness of the climate clings to you as quickly as the sun bakes your skin. Yet, it’s the repressed memories and forgotten corridors of her past which snake back into her mind when prompted by a cowboy who understand more than he’s saying about who she is and why she was at the ranch. Sometimes the past is hard to understand and sometimes, people recoil from being told the truth they never knew – Louise is caught between the memories she held tight to heart and the new information she’s gleaming on her trip.

I had read the notes by Brockmole ahead of reading the story – yet, it took my heart for a punch realising who the ‘Radium Girls’ were all the same. I wasn’t expecting it as much as I thought I was and even when I realised who they were, a part of my heart faltered a bit as you wished they could have lived a bit longer. Florrie and Ethel get into your heart – especially at the disclosures Florrie is letting go of as the miles stack into themselves. She’s lived a closeted life – one where she was always deftly sure about who knew whom she was affectionately smitten over and why she was never actually attached to anyone. Theirs was a unique friendship – formed whilst working at a paint factory and re-connected through this spontaneous desire to make a trip West – where the past and the present re-collided to reveal even more truths than both women were ready to handle.

The seriousness of the matter though is how ingredients in products and manufacturing affected so many people – not just the Radium Girls but there are others who have had infections and diseases by working in shipyards and the Navy or industrial plants or construction sites inasmuch as house painting gigs or insulation – chemically speaking, there has been a lot of heartache from the toxicity of our environments for far, far too long.

Florrie was learning more about Ethel’s marriage than she truly wanted to know and we (the readers) were finding out why Carl was bent on not returning back to Ethel or considering shared custody of their daughter Louise. It as a road trip of angst and of finding freedom in one’s self for discovering things along the way which surprised the soul. Neither of the women were overly happy – not really – but they had rekindled their friendship, finding that was something worth keeping even if the rest of their lives didn’t seem to have much meaning anymore. Whilst all of this is going on – Louise is back-tracking through the roads and places Ethel had visited; the future had re-aligned with the past, guiding Louise to see what Ethel saw and perhaps, understand her mother a bit more in the process. The hard part is that her father hadn’t shared enough about her mother – about the truth of how she died or the truth even, about why he took her out West. Secrets can be buried easily enough but when the truth starts to re-surface, that’s where secrets can unravel everyone’s strength and fortitude. You have to wonder – if he believed so strongly in his actions to remove his daughter from his wife, why didn’t he have the gumption to explain the circumstances to his daughter long before now!?

As I was reading the inserts of the script whilst counter-musing about the contents of the journalled entries between Ethel and Florrie – I started to notice how Florrie had fictionalised her entire trip West with Ethel; of how Francie & Beryl were really them At the same time, Louise was waking up inside her soul; being on the open road had unwound something lost and frazzled. She renewed something which gave instinct to reason, knowing the most important person in her orbit was left back home but there was a second person, she dearly needed to reunite hearts with before it was too late on the opposite Coast. As you observe these women, you observe their fragilities and their forthrightness in being raw – emotionally and psychologically.

As an aside, I knew why the scripts were important to Louise & Florrie because they’ve been the kind of scripts which are important all all actresses for a very long time. Women do not get a lot of source material behind their scripts nor do they get a lot of heady subjects to dissolve themselves into and pull out a performance that takes both heart, soul and patience to bridge through a screen to an audience. The kind of roles which give definition and awe; or if you were watching the Emmy Awards this year (if not, you’ll find a clip on YT) you heard this earnest plea for more roles with substance and worth from Nicole Kidman. I think the cause for meaty roles shall continue a bit longer but hopefully, before too long, women and men will have full equality in motion pictures (at least a girl can hope!).

As I will mention in a moment, there is a portion of the latter 25% (approx.) of the novel which I struggled with reading and treading through – however, what I felt was the beautiful eclipse moment of the novel is how tender Brockmole explored the boundaries of gender and sexuality and the laws of attraction. She also broached into a discourse of seeking to understand friendships and relationships by women and when those knit together to being something ‘more than’ what they appear on the surface. The best moments are inter-threaded between the ‘script’ of Florrie’s and the diary-narrative entries from the 1920’s which speak to the humble honesty of the two woman who shaped and defined the future Louise would live in more ways than you first think is possible.

*NOTE: I jumped over the moon for the first two installments of the Edith Head Mysteries as you will soon find out if you follow this thread!

Content Note: Terminal Illnesses

Generally speaking, I stray away from stories involving Cancer and Terminal illnesses – in fact, I opt-out of reading them entirely. However, I was more than halfway through this novel before I realised how frightening real this was going to get about radium poisoning and all the effects of the Cancers that come with being around the radium itself. There were some passages I had to flirt over – meaning, I read some of the bits but left the rest. Some pages I skipped over as honestly my heart isn’t into knowing the finer details – consider it too much medical woes in my past or the fact I’ve reached the point where I’d prefer less medical ‘anything’ in the fiction I read – either way you slice it, there were a few chunks of narrative I moved past to dig back into either Ethel & Florrie on the road or Louisa arriving at her Dad’s in Jersey.

I will say, if you’re a reader with a sensitive heart like I have, you might want to tread lightly as sometimes, the passages are so guttingly honest and real, you can literally choke on the emotions in those scenes. It reminds me of how difficult it was to read about Harold Fry and why I strive to avoid new stories like his. I was able to stay with Woman Enters Left a bit longer than usual (as lately I find myself distancing myself from these stories and/or turning down review requests) as I was attached to Louise, Ethel and Florrie.

On the writing style of Jessica Brockmole:

Previously, I was entertained strictly through what could be revealled within the confined space of a letter or postcard, as it was the correspondence which defined the pacing and narrative grace of ‘Skye’. This time round, it is the subtle gestures which intrigued me – how there is another unique pacing technique being used in this novel which slows down the action and allows you to ruminate over what is being disclosed and discussed.

Intuitive observational narratives are amongst my favourites but this one nearly is written for the ‘reader’ rather than a historical disclosure about the ‘character’. Almost as if it were written as we might be a part of the audience of a motion picture – we’re seated, fully curious about what is going to take shape on the reel but never quite prepared either? It’s similar to that – the way in which Brockmole has assimilated theatre and/or film language and clues into the narrative itself ties into the back-story of the evolving arc wherein our Louise takes her most important journey. It’s a story of three women, not one but in some ways, without Louise we’d find the other women were ‘lost’ within their own time.

In many ways, this novel reads like a stage play – you feel the inertia of it’s ‘motion’ as soon as you fall into step with Brockmole’s voice in ‘Woman Enters Left’. She’s even found a way to make the inclusions of ephemeral bits shine on their own accord whilst never taking you outside the scope of the story. If anything, they are added pieces which re-clue you into the larger story which has been set to unfold all along. 

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This blog tour is courtesy of: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

Woman Enters Left blog tour via HFVBTs
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{SOURCES: Cover art of “Woman Enters Left”, book synopsis, author biography, author photograph of Jessica Brockmole and the tour badge were all provided by HFVBTs (Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours) and used with permission. Post dividers by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination. Tweets embedded by codes provided by Twitter. Blog graphics created by Jorie via Canva: Book Review Banner using Unsplash.com (Creative Commons Zero) Photography by Frank McKenna and the Comment Box Banner.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2017.

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About jorielov

I am self-educated through local libraries and alternative education opportunities. I am a writer by trade and I cured a ten-year writer’s block by the discovery of Nanowrimo in November 2008. The event changed my life by re-establishing my muse and solidifying my path. Five years later whilst exploring the bookish blogosphere I decided to become a book blogger. I am a champion of wordsmiths who evoke a visceral experience in narrative. I write comprehensive book showcases electing to get into the heart of my reading observations. I dance through genres seeking literary enlightenment and enchantment. Starting in Autumn 2013 I became a blog book tour hostess featuring books and authors. I joined The Classics Club in January 2014 to seek out appreciators of the timeless works of literature whose breadth of scope and voice resonate with us all.

"I write my heart out and own my writing after it has spilt out of the pen." - self quote (Jorie of Jorie Loves A Story)

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Posted Sunday, 8 October, 2017 by jorielov in 20th Century, Based on an Actual Event &/or Court Case, Bits & Bobbles of Jorie, Blog Tour Host & Reviewer, Book Cover | Notation on Design, Content Note, Debilitating Diagnosis & Illness, Disillusionment in Marriage, Divorce & Martial Strife, Epistolary Novel | Non-Fiction, Father-Daughter Relationships, Fly in the Ointment, Historical Fiction, Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours, History, Literary Fiction, Medical Fiction, Nurses & Hospital Life, Postal Mail | Letters & Correspondence, Realistic Fiction, Small Towne USA, Story in Diary-Style Format, the Roaring Twenties, West Coast USA, Women's Fiction, Women's Health




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One response to “Blog Book Tour | “Woman Enters Left” by Jessica Brockmole The novel which brings Jorie full-circle into the heart of #Epistolary Fiction by the author who penned Elspeth’s story!

  1. You have an actual Royal? Oh, that is so cool. I believe I’d also love to own a typewriter, although god knows what I’d do with it. Maybe write snail mail letters :D

    The Typosphere sounds amazing. I believe there is a certain quiet in typing on a mechanical device, because there are no distractions, no internet.

    I can now see why you thought I’d find this interesting :) thanks for pointing me to this review!

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