Defending Alice: A Novel of Love and Race in the Roaring Twenties

HarperVia. Nov. 2022. 576p. ISBN 9780063115460. $28.99. F
With this historical novel, memoirist (“Cannabis Americana” trilogy) and filmmaker (Slum) Stratton reimagines New York City’s remarkable 1925 Rhinelander v. Rhinelander trial, in which white socialite Kip Rhinelander sought a divorce from his wife Alice, a biracial woman. Explored through the eyes of Alice’s attorney Lee Parsons Davis, as well as the diary entries of defendant Alice and the words of plaintiff Leonard, the story depicts the courtship and aftermath of an unprecedented marriage Flipping between Alice’s romantic flashbacks, Leonard’s confused thoughts, Davis’s unapologetic high courtroom drama, and some quite scandalous (for the era) letters, Stratton tells the tale of a couple in love who are torn apart by the very real class, race, and gender struggles that divided New York society in the 1920s. Almost 100 years after this case took place, the themes that Stratton hammers home in his at-times long-winded account are still relevant.
VERDICT Fans of Stratton might appreciate this new offering from the author of crime novel Smack Goddess. Readers interested in Jazz Age history will value Stratton’s close observance of the Rhinelander case and the historically accurate snippets that he peppers throughout his text.
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