Review: ‘One Woman Show’ Uses Museum Wall Labels to Tell the Story of a Wealthy American Woman

         

Summary: Christine Coulson, a former employee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, has written a clever novel that narrates the life of a rich American woman through museum wall labels. The novel highlights the objectification of wealthy white socialites and follows the life of Caroline Margaret Brooks Whitaker, also known as Kitty, as she navigates societal expectations and personal struggles. Through a series of vitrines, the reader experiences Kitty’s journey from her privileged upbringing to her eventual obscurity.

In Christine Coulson’s novel, ‘One Woman Show,’ the life of Caroline Margaret Brooks Whitaker, known as Kitty, is told through a unique narrative technique – museum wall labels. Coulson, a former employee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, draws from her experience to craft a captivating story that explores the objectification of wealthy American women.

Starting in 1911, the novel introduces a young Kitty, described as a ‘masterpiece’ and ‘golden child.’ The museum-like exhibition takes readers through her life, showcasing the expectations and pressures she faces as a woman of privilege. The labels reveal her upbringing, education at prestigious schools like the Chapin School and Miss Porter’s, and her choice to drop out of Smith College to marry a wealthy heir.

Through the clever use of wall labels, Coulson brings Kitty’s story to life. The labels provide insights into Kitty’s struggles with infertility, her multiple marriages, and even her kleptomania. Despite the absence of traditional narrative, Coulson effectively conveys the motivations and complexities of the characters.

As the novel progresses, the reader witnesses Kitty’s journey from being the centerpiece of a ‘new dynastic collection’ to her eventual fate of obscurity. The closing image of a packed and warehoused Kitty serves as a haunting symbol of her diminished relevance.

‘One Woman Show’ is a thought-provoking novel that sheds light on the objectification of wealthy white socialites and invites readers to reflect on societal expectations and the pursuit of happiness. Coulson’s use of museum wall labels as a narrative device adds a unique and compelling layer to the storytelling.

Tags: Book Review, Museum, American Society, Wealth, Objectification, Societal Expectations, Privilege, Women’s Issues

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