TC Boyle can always be counted upon for touching but weird characters and this story -- a fictionalized account of the life of mechanical reaper heir (and incurably psychotic) Stanley McCormick -- is no exception. McCormick developed violent sexual obsessions and delusions as a young man and spent much of his life confined to his estate, cared for by a series of early psychiatrists and group of devoted male attendants. McCormick's bride, Katherine, remained faithful to her husband and involved in his care throughout their lives, despite years of forced separation and McCormick's failure to consummate the relationship. It's difficult to say whether this is a tragedy or a story of heroic fidelity. In either case, it's a fantastic book.
I love T C Boyle's writing. The story is interesting as a semi-fictionalized account of the courtship and marriage between scientist and suffragette Katherine Dexter and millionaire heir, Stanley McCormick. The drama unfolds when soon after marrying in 1904, Stanley is diagnosed schizophrenic, and Katherine hires a string of psychiatrists to treat his violent and delusional reactions to women. The book gives some great insight into the state of psychiatric theory and treatment of mental illness in the 1920's and onward, if only in regards to the private treatment of the mentally ill of privileged society. As well, set against the backdrop of the story of a woman coping with her marriage to a mentally ill husband, is a fascinating, if fictionalized account of Katherine's actual contributions to the woman's movement.
But as great as the story is, I did expect more from Boyle, and from this book. His historical research is dead on, but the 'fiction' part does get bogged down at times. As well, the ending is rather disappointing and a bit anti-climatic.
Great author, if sometimes a little strange. Worth reading!
A riveting and stunning fictionalization of the true story of the unsuccessful mental health treatment of schizophrenic Stanley McCormick, son of the inventor of the McCormick reaper and the story of his wife Katherine Dexter who is banished, along with all women, from being seen by McCormick as he is held in isolation on the family estate in Santa Barbara in the early 20th century.
A fascinating story based on the true circumstances of Stanley McCormick who suffered mental illness.
I listened to this book on tape. It's the very bizarre life story of the crazy heir to a prominent company.
I was very mixed on this one. As usual, Boyle's writing was wonderful, descriptive, and puts you in every scene in the story. However, to me the plot seemed lacking. There didn't seem to be any momentum to the story. The same things seemed to happen over and over without change. I'll admit there were some fascinating aspects to the story of Stanley McCormick who was the mentally unbalanced heir to the McCormick reaper fortune. The story shifts between Stanley's inability to get along in society, his marriage to Katherine Dexter McCormick, their futile sexless relationship, and his time at Riven Rock in the care of several doctors and male nurses. Probably the most interesting character in the story was Stanley's longtime nurse Eddie O'Kane, who goes with him to California in search of ultimate wealth, but who has a weakness for alcohol and women. In the end, however, nothing seems to change as the story progresses: Stanley is insane and stays that way, Katherine tries to help and remains loyal, and Eddie never achieves his dreams and remains hooked on the bottle. I would still give this one a mild recommendation solely on the basis of Boyle's excellent prose.