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

HarperAudio Nov. 2022. 19:15 hrs. ISBN 9780063115491. $27.99. F
Award-winning author (Smack Goddess) and filmmaker (Slam) Stratton explores the Rhinelander v. Rhinelander trial, which highlighted the racial divide in 1920s America. Leonard “Kip” Rhinelander, scion of a wealthy New York family, married Alice Jones, a middle-class biracial woman, only to sue for annulment at his father’s urging. In Stratton’s reimagining of the sensational trial, narrator James Anderson Foster gives voice to Alice’s lawyer, Lee Parsons Davis, whose first-person voice dominates the novel with authoritative assurance and gravitas. Narrator Joel Froomkin brings a young, overwhelmed Kip to life, while Imani Jade Powers delivers the fictional diary entries of Alice, a woman of British and West Indian ethnicity, with a soft, wistful sadness. Those interested in historical fiction, legal thrillers, and race will likely find this novel fascinating, though the length may be a bit off-putting, and some of the sexual descriptions are startlingly explicit. Regrettably, the author did not provide an update on what happened to Alice Jones, though he mentions that Kip Rhinelander died in the 1930s from pneumonia.
VERDICT A smart, if overlong, depiction of a noteworthy trial initiated only because of a domineering father’s racist beliefs.
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