Tuesday 3 August 2021

A Betting Woman

Finished August 3
A Betting Woman: A Novel of Madame Mustache by Jenni L. Walsh

This book was inspired by a real life woman who showed up in California during the Gold Rush and made a name for herself as a French-speaking female croupier, one of the first croupiers of either sex. The author had heard about her first via a nickname, Madame Moustache, and did research on the woman. Born Simone Jules, perhaps of France, perhaps of New Orleans, and later taking the name Eleanor Dumont, this woman traveled all over the west, including briefly into Canada, and made a name and a living for herself. At times she was flush and had her own establishment, at others she was near destitute. 
Walsh took the bare and sparse facts she found and built on them to create the fully-developed character depicted here, a woman who valued her independence, who knew her own worth, and who kept her private life private. The reader gets a sense of life in the west during those times, the lawlessness that prevailed in many, particularly smaller places, and the variety of dangers the people faced from angry men with weapons to diseases. Madame Dumont, as she was known for much of her career, faced all of these, and made her decisions in how to face each with thought and calculations. Walsh has made her origin New Orleans, and brings in other issues of the times from racism and the U.S. Civil War to the treatment of women and their lack of rights. 
A lively and adventurous tale.

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