The Angry Woman Suite: Lee Fullbright
The struggle to live your life and not be criticized, ridiculed and distance by others is often difficult for many people. Some are accepted unconditionally and others work hard at just receiving a simple hug from someone that is supposed to care and protect them. The three voices that you will hear throughout this novel are struggling for survival but not the same in each case. Elyse is the first voice and whose story the author shares as we learn about her early life, her close connection with her grandfather and the fear, turmoil and constant upheavals that marked her young life from the beginning. Growing up with loving grandparents, a mother whose past was quite different and who married a man who was anything but nurturing to her two small children, Elyse learned from the start that life did not hand her a clean and smooth deck. Her real father not in the picture yet wishing he was a stepfather whose personality was unpredictable, violent, abusive and cruel at times, we meet her in 1955 when her life was turned upside down when her family had to move away from her grandparents and her hope to return, Elyse lives her life in fear and hopes to protect not only herself from the whims of her stepfather and even her mother but hopefully her younger sister, Bean too. Each time she thought she made one step in the right direction she was pushed, shoved, beaten and hit many steps behind.
Francis is her stepfather who her mother demands she call Daddy. But, this father figure is not anyone you should want your child to emulate. The fighting the ensued between her mother and Francis was frightening and the hopes that she would protect her mother futile. The abuse the author describes from the onset is frightening, beyond tormenting a little child and claiming it did it out of love, but to him it was all a game.
The connection to her family was great to Elyse and when her Aunt Rose comes to visit she was thrilled. Telling her how unhappy they were without her made her feels better as the author introduces us to two other voices, that of Francis and Aiden. Elyse is quite perceptive in her description of Aiden and thinking that not only was she sizing him up but he was doing to the same to her. As the chapter closes we learn more about Aiden and his perception of Francis and the harsh realization that there was much more that we have yet to learn as it is revealed that there is a mysterious journal that will tell us more about the man named Francis.
We flashback to 1933 where we meet Francis for the first time in school and we realize early on that he is an angry young man and not someone that you can trust. Francis was disturbed, mean and always blaming others for his misfortune as we learn about his first day in school, his unusual relationship with his aunts, his true feelings about Elyse and the fact that he blames everyone for his misfortune. Born in 1928 and coming from a family that is anything but one cohesive group, he proves to the reader to be more than just a dominant voice in this story but a man whose tantrums come all too often, whose hate for his stepdaughter is apparent and without cause and his desire to be a success quite strong. With the help of our third voice, Aiden, born in 1880, we learn that he is a bandleader, curator at a museum and that’s when we learn about the paintings by Matthew Watterson. Throughout the novel the three voices intermingle, their personalities become more distinct and the end result is that the novel spans many decades as we see each character’s growth, changes, strife and their many relationships. However, the time spans vary and some move ahead and at other times they move backwards making sure that the reader knows the back-story of each character to better understand them in the present.
As we get to know Francis in depth we learn about his growing relationship with Aidan, his love of music and how he became involved in playing in his band and playing the piano. We also learn more about the abuse that he took at the hand of Lothian, the fears he faced everyone she was near, the fact that no one seemed to do anything about it and the anger that pent up within in all surround Francis and what finally breaks him. Trying to create a way to fix women who seem to be broken, the fact that he idolized Aidan and the harsh truth about his mother that would send him in a direction he did not expect. Added in we learn more about Matthew Waterson and Jamie Waterson and their connection to a journal that would reveal more than some harsh realities about his mother and her relationship with Aiden.
Next we fast forward again to Elyse and we hear her voice coming through loud and clear once again. As she relates how important it is to talk the truth which is one of his favorite things in the world added in are the amazing German expressions that allows the reader to get to know the man she loves and calls Papa and brings back some familiar expressions.
Creating illusions an artist can paint images, pictures, scenes and stories within his canvas that he wants to world to see through his eyes. A musician’s touch on a violin or the gentle touch on the keys of a baby grand can send the listener off into another world filled with sounds, music, joy and love. Aidan recounts for the reader his early life, becoming a schoolmaster and taking care of his mother. He allows us to learn about his relationships with the Grayson family and his need to protect Magdalene. Her unusual flavor and flare for life is explained in his own words and the odd group of other members in her family will add interest to this intricately weaved story.
Meet Lear and Elizabeth who have secrets of their own and we have yet to learn more about Jamie and Matthew Waterson and the faces within the Angry Suite Portraits. Stella and Lothian are quite unique in their appearances and their behaviors and behind it all we might as her Elyse’s Papa states learn the truth. But, remember you tell just so much but never tell an outright lie and you should not be insulting or manipulate to get your point across. Interesting philosophy!
Throughout the remainder of the chapter we hear Aidan’s voice telling about the Grayson family and it concludes with information about Lear, understanding that not everything is what is seems and truths will come out but remain to be seen. Lear is complicated and there is definitely a hidden mystery we have not yet come upon. We hear more about Magdalene her relationship with Frederick Forsythe and his true feelings about her, which he states she “is evil and manufactures crisis.” The remained of the chapter will enlighten the reader further into this family’s dynamics. Next we refocus and Elyse and her relationship with her mother, which does not seem warm and the rest centers on her family’s perception of her and their feelings.
As Francis comes front and center, the fact that Lothian is out to get him for what he did to her and his feelings for Elena we learn about his compulsions, his desires and the mystery journal that Aidan wrote and hopefully Francis was reading. What is revealed is quite startling and will definitely shed some new light on many of the relationships within both families.
Francis became an overnight sensation and his life changed, as did his relationship with Elena become closer. Next we meet Stephen Eric who is Elyse’s real father and we learn more about him when we hear Francis’s voice. But, things would not always remain solid for him, as the journal would create a rift in his family and Elyse, as Francis states would use it against him. His perception and feelings about her are negative and his treatment harsh. As we learn more about the title of this complex novel The Angry Suite, the face within each canvas and the hidden secret of the person who posed for all of them. Within the paintings is a hidden truth and within the Waterson family a startling and harsh reality that Aiden learns but finds hard to belief.
Where will these paintings wind up and what will be the final chord played or the final pallet painted that will reveal the truth behind the faces in the Angry Suite? What is the connection to Leah Grayson? What other secrets will be revealed about Magdalene and why does this family find reason to hate? How does Francis feel about his real birthright and what will he do next? Moving years ahead to Elyse’s family moving back to her Papa’s house, Francis’s behavior, Grandmother Magdalene and her perceptions about her and whether she should confide in her Papa about the abuse she takes at the hand of the man she calls Daddy.
The hidden truth behind the Suite comes to light and where the paintings really were will surprise the reader and where they are now even more. Just who was the model, what did they want to do with the paintings, what is the fate of Jamie and the rest, you will have to solve that mystery on your own when you read this novel.
An ending so powerful and truths so startling you will not believe just who was behind the deceits, betrayals and illusions that many believed. Author Lee Fulbright takes us inside the minds of three major characters and allows us to get a real close up of the others too. Just who started the fire, what really happened to Jamie, what will the final family portrait look like? Read The Angry Woman Suite and remember: The truth is what you want to belief and sometimes what others impart. Read what Francis says at the end to learn even more.
One heartbreaking novel filled with so many unhappy characters whose personalities are so strong, different and one voice that remains constant: Elyse.
Fran Lewis: reviewer
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