Audiobook Review: Patience and Sarah by Isabel Miller

Patience and SarahPatience and Sarah by Isabel Miller
Publisher: Audible Studios
Audiobook Release Date: September 15, 2015
Narrators: Jean Smart and Janis Ian
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Publisher’s Description:

Set in the nineteenth century, Isabel Miller’s classic lesbian novel traces the relationship between Patience White, an educated painter, and Sarah Dowling, a cross-dressing farmer, whose romantic bond does not sit well with the puritanical New England farming community in which they live. They choose to live together and love each other freely, even though they know of no precedents for their relationship; they must trust their own instincts and see beyond the disdain of their neighbors. Ultimately, they are forced to make life-changing decisions that depend on their courage and their commitment to one another.

Patience and Sarah was first self-published by the author in 1969. It became popular and eventually found a publisher and was the recipient of the American Library Association’s first Stonewall Book Award in 1971. It’s a historical novel based on the life of Mary Ann Willson, a painter who lived with her companion Miss Brundage in a log cabin on a few acres of farm land in the early 19th century in Greene County, New York.

Patience and Sarah alternates between the first person narrations of the two women. Actress Jean Smart is Patience. Her melodic, almost hypnotic voice is perfect for the refined Patience. Singer-songwriter Janis Ian is Sarah. Her voice is perfectly aligned with Sarah’s naïve and rough around the edges personality.

Patience and Sarah is a wonderful love story. The prose evokes the emotions between the two women perfectly. I liked that this novel had a generally positive atmosphere about it, although the women definitely faced obstacles. Sarah’s father beat her when he found out about her relationship with Patience and Patience’s brother asked Patience to leave town when he found out. But so many lesbian novels, especially from the period this book was published and before, never let the gay characters be truly happy because the publishers felt like the characters had to atone or be made to suffer in some way to counteract their “sin” of being gay.

I’m not surprised that this audiobook has been nominated for the Grammy award for Best Spoken Word Album. It was a pleasure to listen to. Crossing my fingers that it wins!

(I received a complementary copy of this book for review.)

  • S.G. Wright

    I hadn’t heard of this title. It seems pretty ahead of its time for 1969, but perhaps took off during the women’s & gay rights movements of the 70s. eh? Interesting that it’s up for a current award. thx