Madame Zee Paperback – Apr 12 2007
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?Precise and elegant, with a measured tone that beautifully balances the often bizarresubject matter.? (the Gazette (montreal))
About the Author
PEARL LUKE has an M.A. in English Literature from the Universityof Calgary. Burning Ground, her first novel, won the 2001 CommonwealthWriters’ Prize for Best First Book (Caribbean and Canada Region) and was afinalist for the Georges Bugnet Award, the Chapters/Robertson Davies First NovelAward and the Libris Award. She became interested in Brother XII and hismistress, Mabel Rowbotham (Madame Zee), after watching a documentary about theirextraordinary lives. Pearl Luke lives on Saltspring Island, BC. Visit her online at www.pearlluke.com
Top Customer Reviews
Luke's prose is incredibly graceful, brimming with fresh metaphors which ornament a captivating plot. For example, anyone who has read much Canadian literature has heard every "Prairie Sky" metaphor 20 times over. Luke, however, miraculously conjures something unique as she likens the huge Saskatchewan sky to an "enameled blue bowl upturned over the entire province." Luke's writing is full of similarly vivid and memorable passages.
"Madame Zee" is a fictionalized biography of the woman born as Mabel Rowbotham. This novel chronicles the journey from her childhood home in England to a position as a schoolteacher in Saskatchewan, and finally to British Columbia, where she becomes involved with Brother Twelve, an infamous cult leader.
History tends to cast women in conventional and restrictive roles -- Madonna or whore; savior or siren. Madame Zee is no exception: she is uniformly vilified as a cruel sexual predator. However, very little is actually known about this mysterious woman who always carried a whip. Zee is nudged out of the historical spotlight by the charismatic Brother Twelve.
Luke questions the one-dimensional quality of Zee's reputation, and uses her novel to create a rich and complex character out of this shadowy woman. The enigmatic Madame Zee is replaced by Mabel Rowbotham, a young woman who wrestles with the significance of her clairvoyant visions and searches for a place where this talent will be accepted.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
I was fascinated by this story after reading a review in a book blog I follow, and tracked down a used copy. I had never heard of Brother, XII or Madame Zee, real live people who lived the the first part of the 20th century .
Luke explains that she gave Zee many siblings and a fairly intact family, something Ms. Luke found out later wasn't the case. In the book, the memory of a death by fire of an older sister is what drives Mabel to a life fascinated with death and the afterlife, connecting her with theosophists, clairvoyants and eventually the utopian community of Brother, XII.
The other thing I saw here was how a charismatic leader becomes "co-opted" by his own special nature, and his/her responses become more and more bizzare until the group/cult morphs into unrecognizable chaos. We see things like this historically all over the globe, mostly in hindsight, and we wonder why, and what lessons can be learned, until another leader comes along.
I KNOW that another reviewer said the last five pages seemed to them like a whole other "tacked on end", but, for me, they were the hindsight of Zee's life looking back at utopia.
This is a fascinatingly disturbing book. I loved it