The Vanishing of Carolyn Wells

Post Hill. Feb. 2024. 256p. ISBN 9781637588505. $30. LIT
Two tenacious women are featured in this literary study: one is the subject, multifaceted author Carolyn Wells (1862–1942) and the other is the book’s author, Barry, who searches worldwide for information about Wells to create this work. In 2011, upon receiving a first edition of Thoreau’s Walden, Barry noticed the decorative bookplate indicating the volume was from the library of Carolyn Wells. This led Barry to investigate the life of Wells, a humorist, who began her career publishing nonsense pieces in popular magazines, all while working part-time in a New Jersey library. Barry scours libraries and databases to find documentation of Wells’s life, which led to contacting the author’s great-niece for interviews. Overall, Barry’s persistent research shows how Wells’s sheer force of will enabled her to use parody to compete and thrive in a literary field dominated by men, such as Mark Twain, and establish a successful career as a young adult and mystery novelist and film and stage writer. Includes photos (not seen) and notes.
VERDICT Recommended for literature and women’s history collections as an excellent example of determined and focused accomplishment.
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