The Secret Life of Mrs. London

Written by Rebecca Rosenberg
Review by Anne Clinard Barnhill

The Secret Life of Mrs. London, Rebecca Rosenberg’s debut novel, is set in San Francisco in 1915 on the brink of World War I. Charmian London, a writer in her own right, is married to the famous Jack London, who lives life as a great adventure. Charmian is a free thinker herself, and theirs is what you might call an “open marriage.” But, as Charmian says at the end of the book, “This free-love thing is for the birds.”

Already somewhat chaotic, dealing with the alcohol-laced London, life becomes even more complicated when the Londons go to see Houdini’s magic show. Harry Houdini selects Charmian from the audience, igniting a love triangle: Harry, Charmian, and Harry’s wife, Bessie.

While interesting, and based on the actual lives of the participants, these characters don’t jump off the page. Instead, they seem to be marionettes with the author pulling the strings. Not that there was any difficulty in believing what happened to them; it was just hard to care. But, learning more about Jack London was enjoyable, as well as seeing early feminist examples. Those interested in exploring the lives of London and Houdini, as well as those who are interested in the time just before WWI, will find this book of interest.