Historical

The Gray Chamber (True Colors)

By: Grace Hitchcock
Publisher: Barbour Books
Publication Date: January 2020
ISBN: 978-1-64352-235-7
Reviewed by: Skyler Boudreau
Review date: April 2, 2020

It’s the 1880’s, and Edyth Foster is a wealthy, thriving, woman in New York. Much to the scorn of her peers, she makes a habit of going against the grain and engaging in typically masculine pursuits like fencing. When her uncle, responsible for the fortune Edyth’s parents left her until her twenty-fifth birthday, finds a loophole in their will allowing him to claim the fortune instead, he takes full advantage of it. Edyth is sent away to an insane asylum, both removing her from the picture allowing him full access to her fortune and putting an end to her eccentric behavior.

During this time period, women were expected to fully submit to the demands of an exclusively male-dominated society or risk being labeled “problematic.” An abundance of men chose to have their “problematic” sisters, wives, and daughters committed to insane asylums. The women were placed there with ill-intentions, not because they were genuinely struggling with their mental health, but to silence them and as punishment for not following the strict demands that their toxic culture placed on them.

Asylums were also used to get women out of the way of their male relatives. Men could commit their wives if they became interested in a different romantic partner and didn’t want to cheat. In The Gray Chamber, Edyth’s Uncle Boris has her committed because a stipulation in her parents’ will allows their fortune to pass to him rather than her if she either dies without children or is diagnosed as insane and sent to an asylum. A woman’s word was not taken seriously during this time. They were often dismissed as hysterical, as Edyth is throughout the novel. Commitment was a simple solution to a man’s problem with a female relative, and one that was difficult for a woman to fight against.

Author Grace Hitchcock paints this difficult history in broad and commanding brush strokes. She forces the audience to reflect on this dark time period and what it did to half of the population. She explores how easy it was for men to take advantage of their power within society and have women locked away for their own financial, personal, or political gain. She fearlessly guides her readers into this era and when her audience emerges, they will do so with a new interest in women’s history.

The Gray Chamber also explores the difficulty women faced when entering a predominantly male field. Edyth is very interested in fencing. She is one of the best students in her friend Bane’s fencing club. It’s not a hobby that is considered fitting for a young woman, and she faces opposition from not just her family and peers, but from some fellow club members as well. During a scene in the beginning of the novel, one of the other fencing students is rude to her. Upon expressing her discomfort, he responds with, “‘Please. We all know, Edyth, that you are one of the boys. No need to pretend you don’t hear worse, but it is a shame that you don’t dress up more often.’” (pg. 54) This is a common occurrence even today. Her male peer harasses her because of her gender and then tries to laugh it off by claiming she is one of them. He doesn’t respect her because of her gender, and then tries to ignore it as an excuse for the harassment. Hitchcock makes a point to address similar gender issues and inequities throughout the novel.

While The Gray Chamber places wonderful emphasis on these cultural issues, it does have some weaknesses. A lot of the action sequences are cut out completely. There’s a scene where a detective is hired to sneak into the asylum where Edyth’s friends suspect she is imprisoned. He needs to find a way into the asylum and a safe way to sneak away again. That entire section of the novel is cut out. Rather than show this sequence happening, the detective’s intentions are stated, and then he isn’t heard from again until after all of the action has happened, when it’s briefly mentioned that he was successful. A similar situation happens when her friends concoct a plan to rescue her. The first half of the plan, breaking into the asylum with a larger group of people, is completely skipped over. Both scenes could have added a lot of suspense to the rescue itself, but the opportunity was lost. It happens several other times throughout the novel too. Removing most of the action sequences removes the tension. As there isn’t much driving the climax forward, the pacing feels off.

Reading this novel did interest me in learning more about women’s history during this time period, and it has some great commentary on the way women were treated during the 1800’s. It’s an easy novel for history lovers to get through. However, the plot was a definite weakness.

Quill says: This book is a good way to jump start an interest in women’s history!

The Gray Chamber (True Colors)

Westering Women

My Dear Hamilton: A Novel of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton

Self-Styled: Chasing Dr. Robert Vernon Spears

Chicago Rink Rats: The Roller Capital in Its Heyday

Someplace to Call Home

Miep and the Most Famous Diary: The Woman Who Rescued Anne Frank's Diary

The Dung Beetles of Liberia: A Novel Based on True Events

A Transcontinental Affair

Water Lily Dance

The Emperor Strikes Back: Frederick II's War against his Vassals

Flirtation on the Hudson (Journey of Cornelia Rose)

Days to the Gallows: A Novel of the Hartford Witch Panic

I, Claudia: A Novel of the Ancient World

The White City: True Colors - Historical Stories of American Crime

WWI Crusaders

The Patchwork Bride

Rebels Against Tyranny: Civil War in the Crusader States

Claire's Last Secret

Operation Archangel: The Scouts of St. Michael

The Race to Save the Romanovs

The Cumberland Bride: Daughters of the Mayflower, Book 5

Whiskey When We're Dry

The Patriot Bride: Daughters of the Mayflower, Book 4

The Pirate Bride: Daughters of the Mayflower, Book 2

The Mayflower Bride: Daughters of the Mayflower, Book 1

Kublai Khan: Khan of Mongol, Emperor of China

Destiny by Design: Leah's Story

Building the Great Society: Inside Lyndon Johnson's White House

Leather to Steel

Maid of Baikal: A Novel of the Russian Civil War

Obedience

 The Trumpets of Jericho

 A Cherry Blossom in Winter

The Last Crusader Kingdom: Dawn of a Dynasty in Twelfth-Century Cyprus

 Return to Cold War

Gladden the Heart

Return to Babylon: The Orfeo Saga, Book Five

The Invention of Celebrity

Leningrad 1941 - 42: Morality in a City Under Seige

The Black Hand: The Epic War Between a Brilliant Detective and the Deadliest Secret Society in American History

The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence: A Story of Botticelli

The Wanderer's Last Journey: The Orfeo Saga, Book Four

Windy City Blues

The Beekeeper's Daughter

Zurga's Fire: The Orfeo Saga, Book Three

Shoes For Anthony

A Bridge Across the Ocean

A Lady’s Code of Misconduct (Rules for the Reckless)

To Shine With Honor - Book One: Coming of Age

The Spice Box Letters

Letters from Paris

The Brontë Sisters Boxed Set: Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Villette

 The Velvet Hours

Karolina's Twins

Envoy of Jerusalem: A Biographical Novel of Balian d'Ibelin

Along the Infinite Sea

The World Beneath

The French War Bride

The House of Dreams

Radio Girls

Shot Down: The true story of pilot Howard Snyder and the crew of the B-17 Susan Ruth

The Midnight Watch: A Novel of the Titanic and the Californian

Soda Springs

Calico Spy: Undercover Ladies series

Stones in the Road

 Médicis Daughter: A Novel of Marguerite de Valois

American St. Nick: A True Story

Twenty-One Heroes

The Antioch Testament

White Collar Girl

Another Woman's Daughter

The Last Midwife

The Wild West of Louis L'Amour: An Illustrated Companion to the Frontier Fiction of an American Icon

The Gilded Hour

Defender of Jerusalem: A Biographical Novel of Balian D'Ibelin

The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach

Café Europa: An Edna Ferber Mystery

The Tulip Resistance

Undercover Bride: Undercover Ladies series

Essie’s Roses

The Curse of Anne Boleyn

War Bonds: Love Stories from the Greatest Generation

Death of a Diva: From Berlin to Broadway

Wall, Watchtower, and Pencil Stub: Writing During World War II

The Price of Blood

Sprouting Wings: Book One in the Alan Ericsson Series

The Accidental Empress

Things Half In Shadow

Cattle Kate

What the Lady Wants: A Novel of Marshall Field and the Gilded Age

Inmate 1818 and Other Stories

The Paris Winter

The Garden of Letters

The Winter Guest

Grand Central: Original Stories of Postwar Love and Reunion

The Sweetness

The Romanov Sisters: The Lost Lives of the Daughters of Nicholas and Alexandra

The Wild Dark Flowers: A Novel of Rutherford Park

Enduring Courage: Ace Pilot Eddie Rickenbacker and the Dawn of the Age of Speed

Time-Life World War II In 500 Photographs

Plots and Pans

Simple Faith: The Peacemakers Series, Book Two

Sinners and the Sea: The Untold Story of Noah's Wife

 Revolutionary

The Warsaw Conspiracy

The Traitor’s Wife

America’s Greatest Blunder: The Fateful Decision to Enter World War One

Stella Bain

The Winter Warrior: A Novel of Medieval England

 Stillwater

Margot

Colette

In Falling Snow

Downtown Strut: An Edna Ferber Mystery

The Serpent and the Pearl: A Novel of the Borgias

Plague In The Mirror

Rutherford Park

Indivisible? The Story of the Second American Civil War

Good To Her

Shades of Death: The Gauntlet Runner Book II

Paris

Drums of War Series

Heart of a Falcon

Holy Smoke: A Jerusalem Mystery

Through Irish Eyes: A Visual Companion to Angela McCourt's Ireland

Jack Absolute

Orders From Berlin

 Dogs of War: The Stories of FDR's Fala, Patton's Willie, and Ike's Telek

The Midwife's Revolt

The FitzOsbornes at War: The Montmaray Journals, Book Three

The Story of the Costume Drama

Blue Earth

The Forsyte Saga Collection - DVD

Molly, by Golly!: The Legend of Molly Williams, America's First Female Firefighter

The Lost Artist: Five Star Mystery Series

Emanuel and the Hanukkah Rescue

Winds of Redemption

Jasmine Nights

To Kill the Duke

The Color of War: How One Battle Broke Japan and Another Changed America

Anthology

Dr. Joseph Warren: The Boston Tea Party, Bunker Hill, and the Birth of American Liberty

The United States Constitution: A Round Table Comic Graphic Adaptation

Ghost Train to Freedom: An Adventure on the Underground Railroad

Promised Valley Conspiracy

Promised Valley War

Promised Valley Rebellion

 The Titanic for Dummies

International Affairs

Twice as Good: The story of William Powell and Clearview, the only golf course designed, built, and owned by an African-American

Axis Sally: The American Voice of Nazi Germany

Mozart’s Last Aria

The Golden Hour

The Rebel Wife

Afghan Boomerang

Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare?

The Crown

Fission

RingGoRound

Lives like Loaded Guns: Emily Dickinson and Her Family’s Feuds

A Slave in the White House: Paul Jennings and the Madisons

The Printmaker’s Daughter

A Train in Winter: An Extraordinary Story of Women, Friendship, and Resistance in Occupied France

Napoleon’s Privates: 2,500 years of History Unzipped

Red-Robed Priestess: a novel (Fourth volume of the Maeve Chronicles)

Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman

The Little Bride

The Lady of the Rivers

The Women of the Cousins' War: The Duchess, the Queen, and the King's Mother

Ripley's Believe It Or Not! Strikingly True

Voices of the Bulge: Untold Stories from Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge

Lebensborn

Sweet Betsy From Pike

Innocent War (Behind An Immigrant’s Past Series, Book I)

Shadow of a Quarter Moon

Joining Up

Gone: A Heartbreaking Story of the Civil War

Bombs Away! The World War II Bombing Campaigns over Europe

In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin

Blood of the Reich

Time of the Quickening: Prophecies for the Coming Utopian Age

From Jazz Babies to Generation Next: The History of the American Teenager

How to Read World History in Art

Tasting the Universe: People Who See Colors in Words and Rainbows in Symphonies

Alice Ray and the Salem Witch Trials

George’s Candy: Rescue, Death, and Love in Vietnam

The Wonderful Future That Never Was: Flying Cars, Mail Delivery by Parachute, and Other Predictions from the Past

Valley Forge: George Washington and the Crucible of Victory

Haunted Ozark Battlefields: Civil War Ghost Stories and Brief Battle Histories

Voodoo Histories: The Role of the Conspiracy Theory in Shaping Modern History

Norah: The Making of an Irish-American Woman in 19th Century New York

The Alodia Scrapbook: Vol. 1: Creating a New Paradigm, 2001-03

v2036: A Tale of Sociopolitical Change in a Militarized Venezuela

Counterpoint: Dylan’s Story

In Theda Bara's Tent

New York: The Novel

The Mental Floss History of the United States: The (Almost) Complete and (Entirely) Entertaining Story of America

Did Castles Have Bathrooms?: And Other Questions About the Middle Ages

The Jewel of St. Petersburg

The Library: An Illustrated History

Days of Infamy

Spartacus: Blood and Sand, The Complete First Season

The Father of Hollywood

Frozen in Time: Murder at the Bottom of the World

Restless Heart

The Secret History of the Pink Carnation

The Children’s Book

Giorgi’s Greek Tragedy

2012: The Year of Changes – Prophecies about Barack Obama, Vladimir Putin, Other Leaders, and the United States

It Simply Must Be Said: A View of American Public Education from the Trenches of Teaching

Methuselah's Pillar

The Hidden Scroll: An Archeological Adventure

Crestmont

Voices of Gettysburg

The Last Leaf: Voices of History’s Last-Known Survivors

The Throne in the Heart of the Sea

Claude & Camille: A Novel of Monet

A Parisienne in Chicago: Impressions of the World’s Columbian Exposition

Lies the Government Told You: Myth, Power, and Deception in American History

Daughters of the Witching Hill

An Irish Country Girl

The Keeper’s Gift (or Uley’s Journal)

The Sweet War Man: A Novel

Mistress of Rome

Iran (Country Explorers)

Asleep: The Forgotten Epidemic that Remains One of Medicine's Greatest Mysteries

Along the Fortune Trail

Atomic Obsession

Witches of Cahokia

Al-Battani Shield: Counteracting Global Warming: A New Approach

Nelson’s Complete Book of Bible Maps and Charts

Mardi Gras of Posters

Anne Frank: Her life in words and pictures from the archives of The Anne Frank House

My First War

Leaving the Alamo: Texas Stories After Vietnam

Snapshot: The Visual Almanac for Our World Today

Murderous Intellectuals: German Elites and the Nazi SS

Why We Don't Kill Spiders

TIME Great Discoveries: Explorations that Changed History

A Land Beyond Ravens

The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte

Sisterhood Of Faith: 365 Life-Changing Stories About Women Who Made A Difference

Journey Along the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad: Pictorial History of Pocono Mountain Boarding Homes, Hotels, Inns & Resorts from the Delaware Water Gap to Tobyhanna, Pennsylvania

The Illustrated History of Hypnotism

The Last Paradise

A Mercy

Florida's Vanishing Trail

Faust: My Soul Be Damned for the World, Vol. 1

Faust: My Soul Be Damned for the World, Vol. 2

The Court-Martial of Charlie Newell

Loving Frank

Sinking the Ship of State: The Presidency of George W. Bush

One Thousand White Women: The Journals of May Dodd

Feathered Quill

Disclosure in Accordance with FTC Guidelines 16 CFR Part 255

Copyrights © 2020 Feathered Quill Reviews All Rights Reserved. | Designed & Developed by Unglitch.io