In her second novel “The Nine,” Beacon Hill resident Jeanne Blasberg unearths the underbelly of a New England prep school and its longstanding pattern of sexual misconduct, as well as the fallout it ultimately creates for the family of one student who refuses to idly sit back and remain quiet about it.
Hannah Webber, a “helicopter mother” who struggled with fertility issues, has made great sacrifices to send Sam, her gifted son, to an elite boarding school, where he uncovers a longstanding tradition of sexual misconduct he simply cannot ignore, despite knowing that divulging a deviant secret society on campus known as “The Nine” could well come at the detriment of his own family.
“It has a lot of timely themes and touches on privilege, both individual and institutional; access to [social] class; and betrayal,” Blasberg said of the novel that took her six years to write. “I also really wanted to write a modern campus novel that wasn’t only a coming-of-age story for young people, but also included want whole family was going through as they were sending their child away….and in my case, that’s from a maternal point of view.”
Much of the impetus for the novel admittedly came from the real-life angst Blasberg felt as she was sending her own child off to prep school at a time when the news was filled with reports suggesting that sexual misconduct had been endemic in these institutions.
“As my own kids were going off into the world, stories were coming out in the news about sexual misconduct and the [subsequent] cover-ups at New England boarding schools,” she said.
Blasberg also drew inspiration for the novel from reading the narrative of Hannah in “The Book of Samuel” while studying Bible text at Temple Israel of Boston.
In this narrative, Hannah overcomes fertility issues to give birth to Samuel after going to the temple at the Shiloh sanctuary where she prayed for a son and in turn vowed to give him back to the service of God. Eli the High Priest, who was sitting on a chair near the doorpost at the time, believed she was drunk and questioned her. But despite this seeming slight, Hannah raised and weaned Samuel before returning him to temple and turning him over to Eli, along with a traditional sacrifice. Eli subsequently announced another blessing on Hannah, and she went on to conceive three more sons and two daughters, making six children in all.
“It got me thinking about [to whom] you’re handing your children over to at age 14,” Blasberg said.
Blasberg will celebrate “The Nine” book launch on Friday, Sept. 6, at 7 p.m. at the Harvard Book Store, located at 1256 Massachusetts Ave. in Cambridge, and she will also participate in a conversation with fellow Boston author Randy Susan Meyers on Tuesday, Sept. 17 from 7 to 9 p.m. at Hampshire House at 84 Beacon St. The latter event is sponsored by Blackstone’s of Beacon Hill.
Blasberg is also the author of “Eden: A Novel,” her 2017 debut which won the Beverly Hills Book Awards for Women’s Fiction, and was finalist for the Benjamin Franklin Award for Best New Voice in Fiction and Sarton Women’s Award for Historical Fiction. For more information on Blasberg and “The Nine,” visit www.jeanneblasberg.com, follow JeanneBlasbergAuthor on Facebook or @JeanneBlasbeg on Twitter.