"Arm yourself against my dawn, which may at any moment cast you and Harry into obscurity, Alice James writes her brother William in 1891. In Judith Hooper's magnificent book, zingers such as this fly back and forth between the endlessly articulate and letter-writing Jameses, all of whom are geniuses at gossiping. And the James family did, in fact, know everyone intellectually important on both sides of the Atlantic, but by the time we meet her in 1889, Alice has been sidelined and is lying in bed in Leamington, England, after taking London by storm. We don't know what's wrong with Alice -- no one does, though her brothers have inventive theories -- even the best of medical science offers no help. Her legs no longer support her. She cannot travel home and so is separated from her beloved Katherine. She also suffers fits each day at noon sending her into swooning dreams in which she not so much remembers her life as relives it. So, with Alice in bed, we travel to London and Paris, where the James children spent parts of their unusual childhoods. We sit with her around the James family's dinner table, as she - the youngest and the only girl - listens to the intellectual elite of Boston, missing nothing. We meet her mercurial father, given to visions of angels and firing each governess he hires for her in turn. The book is accompanied by Hooper's Afterword, an essay on the state of medicine encountered by Alice James, preposturous remedies inflicted on Victorian woman as encumbered by infirmity, it seems, as by the privileges of their station. Accompanied by an Afterword that addresses the various maladies that befell not only Alice but others of her caste and class, we find a brilliant woman encumbered by what was perhaps a genetically derived variety of infirmities, some of which will have resonance with the readers of today."-- Provided by publisher.