The Cape Doctor (Hardcover)
A "gorgeous, thoughtful, heartbreaking" historical novel, The Cape Doctor is the story of one man’s journey from penniless Irish girl to one of most celebrated and accomplished figures of his time (Lauren Fox, New York Times bestselling author of Send for Me).
Beginning in Cork, Ireland, the novel recounts Jonathan Mirandus Perry’s journey from daughter to son in order to enter medical school and provide for family, but Perry soon embraced the new-found freedom of living life as a man. From brilliant medical student in Edinburgh and London to eligible bachelor and quick-tempered physician in Cape Town, Dr. Perry thrived. When he befriended the aristocratic Cape Governor, the doctor rose to the pinnacle of society, before the two were publicly accused of a homosexual affair that scandalized the colonies and nearly cost them their lives.
E. J. Levy’s enthralling novel, inspired by the life of Dr. James Miranda Barry, brings this captivating character vividly alive.
About the Author
E.J. Levy has been featured in Best American Essays, the New York Times, and the Paris Review, among other publications, and has received a Pushcart Prize. Her debut story collection, Love, In Theory, won the 2012 Flannery O'Connor Award and the 2014 Great Lakes Colleges Association's New Writers Award (previously awarded to Alice Munro and Louise Erdrich for first books); a French edition is forthcoming from Editions Rivages. Her anthology, Tasting Life Twice: Literary Lesbian Fiction by New American Writers, won a Lambda Literary Award. A graduate of Yale, she earned an MFA from Ohio State University, where she held a Presidential Fellowship; she teaches in the MFA Program at Colorado State University.
"How should Barry be considered? Trans? Male? Female? Levy opts for the last, adopting that perspective so her narrator can explore — sometimes painfully, sometimes wittily, always persuasively — the differences between a woman’s experience of Georgian and Victorian society and the masculine freedom to be found when those social constrictions are eased."—Alida Becker, New York Times Book Review
"Levy’s assured, persuasive debut novel is based on a real-life 19th-century physician, James Miranda Barry, who was born Margaret Anne Bulkley. The book explores the differences between a woman’s experience of Georgian and Victorian society and the masculine freedom to be found when social constrictions are eased.”—New York Times Book Review (Editors' Choice)
“Historical fiction at its best….The story is a good one, but it is the exquisite writing and the portrayal of women in the first half of the 19th century that make ‘The Cape Doctor’ such an intriguing book….In real life, Barry made significant contributions to medicine. The Cape Doctor is a literary contribution that will enthrall readers with clever writing and a sympathetic story.”—Denver Post
“Though it's a compelling story of one particular transformation, this wise, emotionally resonant novel makes an intelligent, heartfelt plea for compassion as it sifts through the wrongheaded assumptions we make about identity…. Levy's fearless depiction of Margaret/Jonathan, her authentic rendering of this voice, her fleshing out of a little-known historical character full of complications."—Connie Ogle, Minneapolis Star Tribune
“The Cape Doctor is a rare achievement: equal parts brains and heart, a page-turner and a deeply moving exploration of precisely what it means to be human. E. J. Levy breaks open what we think we know about gender, identity, and love and shines a light on the devastating limits of each. I can’t stop thinking about this gorgeous, thoughtful, heartbreaking book.”—Lauren Fox, New York Times bestselling author of Send for Me
“The Cape Doctor does what the best novels do. It invites us to put aside our own lives for a time in order to live someone else’s. And it repays the moral imagination that requires with something like wisdom.”—Richard Russo, author of Chances Are...
"The Cape Doctor is one of those rare wonders of historical fiction: a novel that is so utterly transporting, so fully steeped in its time and place I kept looking up from the page and wondering where I was. And how did E.J. Levy do it? Was she there? The story of its hero Dr. Perry, an Irish woman practicing medicine under cover as a man in nineteenth-century South Africa raises powerful contemporary questions about the nature of border crossings – of gender, of class, and ultimately of love."—Sarah Blake, bestselling author of The Postmistress
“E.J. Levy’s compelling novel The Cape Doctor, born at the intersection of history and imagination, powerfully examines the fluidity and complexity of gender. Levy offers a profound meditation on identity, loneliness, and love. The Cape Doctor provides everything I come to a novel hoping for—graceful prose, first-rate storytelling, and an irresistible protagonist observed with deep compassion. I admired and adored this book.”—Lori Ostlund, author of After the Parade
"A remarkable reimagining of a remarkable life. The narrator of The Cape Doctor – courageous, lonely, vivid – lingers in the mind like a departed friend." —Elizabeth Kostova, author of The Historian
"An elegant and provocative spin on the life of trans icon James Miranda Barry. . . . Perry’s narration brims with fascinating details about medicine and social mores of the time. This beautifully written work will spark much debate."—Publishers Weekly
"Levy has done an absolutely superb job of novelizing Barry’s life while her realization of him as a character is flawless. He is brilliant, impetuous, unafraid (perhaps foolishly) of making enemies in a good cause, an ardent supporter of women’s rights and an equally ardent enemy of slavery. . . . And the book is beautifully written."—Booklist (starred review)
"[A] resplendent debut novel...sure to create lively discussion."—Janet Somerville, Toronto Star
"[A] voyage across genders and the world, a courageous journey from which women and society benefit today — a journey worth reading."—Harriet Zaidman, Winnipeg Free Press
Praise for Love, in Theory
"A brilliant debut . . . Sad, funny, and always wise, Levy's stories reveal truths about how we love and lose, trust and betray, with an intelligence that takes my breath away. I'll be returning to these wonderful stories again and again."--Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail
"In all the stories in Love, In Theory...[t] here is rarely a word out of place, and each story offers a new meditation, if you will, on the nature of love without giving in to cliché. This is a smart, smart book."--Roxane Gay, author of Hunger
"Levy is a genuine talent, a unique and powerful voice, with a gift for the sort of close and subtle observation of the world and its people that characterizes great literature."--Lee Martin, Pulitzer-Prize finalist, author of The Bright Forever