Monday, May 14, 2012


I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.

My knowledge of Helen Keller doesn't extend far beyond the basic facts that everyone knows.   I am most familiar with the aspects of her amazing story that were presented in "The Miracle Worker." When I heard that this book dealt with Helen's cladestine love affair with assistant Peter Fagan, I was intrigued.  Why had I never heard about this before?

HELEN KELLER IN LOVE opens with Helen waiting for Peter to come and get her so they can secretly elope. She recounts how their love affair began with Peter's arrival as an assistant when Annie became ill with possible tuberculosis.  Helen is in her thirties and young Peter provides perfect romantic fodder as her personal secretary.  She is completely reliant on him and her form of communication necessitates touch and close proximity.  In spite of the best efforts of her family and Annie, Helen begins to fall for this charismatic young man. He inspires her to dare to dream about things she thought would forever be denied to her such as love and a family.  The book imagines the frustrations that Helen must have felt in her dependence on the people around her and the limitations that everyone placed on her.  I was surprised to learn about her political interests and how she was an active Socialist.  The book gave me a very different view of Helen Keller.

In spite of these intriguing details, I felt a bit frustrated by the book. It felt too simple as if it only skimmed the surface of the emotions and complexities surrounding the relationship.  The relationship moved far too quickly. I didn't believe that the two of them would have fallen for each other that quickly.  Peter comes off as an opportunist and shyster. Maybe he was. But Helen seems far too intelligent to fall for that kind of man.  The book ends on a sad and wistful note as history is clear that she never married.  The book is at its best when it reveals Helen's state of mind and her frustrations about the limitations of her life.  I really disliked the whole relationship between her and Peter and thought those were the weakest parts of the book.

BOTTOM LINE: Not recommended.  An interesting premise but the presentation was lacking for me.  It felt too superficial and the love story wasn't believable for me. There was nothing likeable about Peter and I often felt frustrated with Helen.  I really wanted to like this book but it just didn't work for me.

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