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Review of The Incorrigibles by Meredith Jaeger

The Incorrigibles by Meredith Jaeger is a dual-timeline historical novel tracing the life of a 1970s photographer as she researches a young woman who is incarcerated in San Quentin in the late 1800s.

I am not a fan of the dual timeline generally, especially when the nearer-to-present character instructs the reader on how to research historical figures and events. So many historical novels I've read lately incorporate this framing device. That said, this book did that well, and though I didn't realize it until the very end, this author had a solid reason for using this structure. The 1970s character Judy is based on an actual photographer who did this research at the start of her career.

I loved the portion of the story set in the late 1800s and wanted to be immersed solely in that story and point of view for the duration of the novel. The back and forth between timelines felt jarring, though I do appreciate this more now that I know the inspiration for the character in the 1970s. Maybe a consistent verb tense would have helped. It took me a while to lose myself in the story.

Overall, this is an interesting history, San Quentin in particular. I would have loved more time in the prison with this group of women. The writing was accessible, definitely more in the commercial fiction category than literary. It's a story told well that did not incorporate a lot of poetic language or literary devices. The entire cast of characters in the 1800s timeline was very well-done. Unforgettable.

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