Catalogue


Frances and Bernard /
Carlene Bauer.
imprint
Boston : Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012.
description
195 p. ; 22 cm.
ISBN
9780547858241 (hardback)
format(s)
Book
Holdings
More Details
imprint
Boston : Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012.
isbn
9780547858241 (hardback)
catalogue key
8909455
A Look Inside
First Chapter

August 15, 1957
Dearest Claire—
   How are you?
   Here I am in Philadelphia, back from the colony. It was mildly horrific, except for the writing. I finished what I think might be a draft of the novel. If I can just figure out a way to continuously sponge off the rich, the rest of my life should go very well!
   I fear, however, that I will have to become a teacher to support this habit. I don’t think the rich found me very grateful, and they probably won’t ask me back to their glen. Oh well.
   And now I will tell you the mildly horrific part. You deserved a honeymoon, but the whole time I was there I kept wishing that you could have come with me so that we could have taken long walks together fellowshipping in daily indictment of our fellow guests. Here were my spiritual exercises: I prayed, and then I had silent conversations with you in my head about the idiotic but apparently talented. I kept silent at meals, mostly, and this silence, as I hoped, kept people from trying to engage with me. I had nothing to say to them, because they were always telling stories about the other writers they knew or the hilarious things they’d gotten up to while drinking. And me, dry as the town of Ocean Grove. Sample colonists: Two poets, boys, our age. Editors at two different literary magazines. Indistinguishable. Their names do not bear repeating. Sample dinner story: These two had been members of a secret society at Yale, with one the head and the other his deputy. The head would sit on a gold-painted throne they’d stolen from the drama department to interview potential candidates. “Sodomy or disembowelment,” he said he’d ask, “and every man who answereddisembowelmentgot in.” And then this, from the cocktail party they threw for us the first night: A novelist (a lady novelist, a writer of historical romances). Your mother has probably read them. I’ve seen them eaten with peanuts on trains. Was introduced to her as a fellow novelist and that was the last she cared to know of me, as she was off on a monologue detailing her busy reading and lecture schedule; the difficulties of balancing this schedule and her writing; the infinite patience of her advertising-executive husband, who never minds using his vacation time to travel to Scotland and Ireland and France for her research; the infinite patience of her dear, dear editor, who always picks up the phone when she needs to be cajoled out of an impasse, which isn’t often: “Thank heavens I’m a visceral writer. It just comes out of me in a flood. I can’t stop it. I usually need about three weeks here for six hundred pages, which I then whittle down to a—” I wanted so badly to tell her what this self-centered harangue was making my viscera do. Sometimes there’s no more satisfactory oath to utter at these times but a silentJesus Christ. I’d feel bad about taking the Lord’s name in vain but I like to think he’s much more offended by the arrogance that drives me to offer up such a bitterly desperate beseechment. Well, I guess he’s offended by my bitterness too, but—a visceral writer. Dear God. Claire, please let me never describe myself or my work with such conviction. The self-regard that fuels so many—I will never get over it. It’s like driving drunk, it seems to me. Although these people never kill anybody—they just blindside everyone until they’ve cleared a path to remunerative mediocrity.
   On the few occasions I did speak at these gatherings, I was looked at as if I were a child of three who’d toddled up to their elbows, opened her mouth, and started speaking in perfect French. I enjoyed that. Silence, exile, cunning.
   There was one young man who did bear scrutiny. Bernard Eliot. Harvard. Descended from Puritans, he claims. Another poet. But very good. Well, I guess I should say more thanvery good. Great? I know nothing about poetry, except that I either like it or don’t. And his I liked very much. I hear John Donne in the poems—John Donne prowling around in the boiler room of them, shouting, clanging on pipes with wrenches, trying to get this young man to uncram the lines and cut the poems in half. We had a nice lunch one day—he asked me to lunch, he said, because he’d noticed me reading a book by Etienne Gilson. He converted a few years ago. Here I frown: could be a sign of delusions of grandeur, when a Puritan turns to Rome. He said an astounding thing at lunch. He asked me if I had a suitor—his word—and I said no. I was pretty sure this was just to start conversation. Then, after a pause, while I was shaking some ketchup out over my french fries, he said, chin in hand, as if he were speaking to me from within some dream he was having, “I think men have a tendency to wreck beautiful things.” I wanted to laugh. I couldn’t figure out what kind of response he wanted—was he trying to determine if I was the kind of girl who had experience with that kind of wreckage and who would then be a safe harbor for confessing some of his own, or was he laying a flirtatious trap to see how much of his own wreckage I’d abide? Instead I asked him if he wanted the ketchup. “Actually, yes, thanks,” he said, and then, while shaking it out over his own fries, “Have you ever been to Italy?” He asked if he could write me while he was there. I did like him. Though I think he comes from money, and has read more at twenty-five than I will have read by the time of my death, he seemed blessedly free of pretension. Grandiose statements about romance notwithstanding.
   Tell me of Paris. Send my love to Bill. When can I visit you in Chicago?

Love,
Frances

August 20, 1957
Dear Ted—
   I’m packing for Italy, and sorry that I won’t get a chance to see you before I leave and you come back from Maine. Say hello to your mother and father for me. Will you finally make a conquest of that lobsterman’s daughter? I think you’re making this effort only to weave a line about it into the final ballad of Ted McCoy, just so your sons and grandsons have something to which they might aspire. Which I applaud. It’s as good as catching a mermaid.
   It’s a damn shame that you didn’t get accepted to the colony. I’ve said it before and there, I said it again. They decided to give all the fiction spots to women this round. Everyone there was a thoroughgoing hack. There was a pert, kimono-wearing Katherine Mansfield type to flirt with, but she wasn’t smart enough to consider doing anything serious about. Which was all for the best. She couldn’t remember my name until the second week of our stay. She insisted on calling me Anton. “I’m sorry, you remind me of—” but she would never say who this Anton was. I wanted to know! She meant to give
off an air of mystery—instead she gave off an air of distracted imbecility.
   I met a girl I quite liked—but not in that way. I think you’d like her too. She looks untouched, as if she grew up on a dairy farm, but she’s dry, quick, and quick to skewer, so there’s no mistaking that she was raised in a city. Philadelphia. Her name is Frances Reardon. Was a little Mother Superiorish. She’s just escaped from the workshop at Iowa. She was the only other real writer there. Her novel is about a hard-hearted nun who finds herself receiving stigmata. It sounds juvenile, but it’s very funny. (I stole a look at some pages in her bag at lunch when she’d gone to get us some coffee.) Clearly someone educated by bovine-minded Catholics taking her revenge—but for God. A curious mix of feminine and unfeminine—wore a very conventional white dress covered in the smallest of brown flowers and laid her napkin down on her lap with something approaching fussiness, but then thumped the bottom of a ketchup bottle as if she were pile driving. At one point said that “reading the verse of Miss Emily Dickinson makes me feel like I’m being suffocated by a powder puff full of talc” but avowed that she did like Whitman. “Does that give me the soul of a tramp?” she said, smiling. Very charming, and without meaning to be. A rare thing. Also a very, very good writer. She made me laugh quite a bit. And yet she is religious. Also very rare. I think I might try to make her a
friend.
   I know you’re not a letter writer, but drop me a postcard or two.

Yours,
Bernard

September 20, 1957
Dear Frances—
   I hope this letter finds you well and still pleasurably hard at work.
   I write to you from outside Florence, Italy, where an old professor of mine has a family house that he has very kindly allowed me to come and stay in. I’m finishing my book here.
   I very much enjoyed talking with you this summer, and I would like to talk to you some more. But I’m in Italy. And you’re in Philadelphia. So will you talk to me in letters?
   Have you ever been to Italy? In Italy, I feel musical and indolent. All speech is arpeggio.
   I wanted to ask you this question when we had lunch: Who is the Holy Spirit to you?

Sincerely,
Bernard

September 30, 1957
Dear Bernard—
   I was so very pleased to receive your note. Thank you for writing me. It would be a pleasure to talk to you in letters.
   I have not been to Italy, but I have been to London, where I remember seeing young Italian tourists thronging about major landmarks and chattering in a way that made me think of pigeons. I know that must be unfair, but that is my only impression of Italy, refracted as it is through the prism of stodgy old England.
   Have you ever been to Philadelphia? Right now, as summer winds down, it is fuzzy with heat and humidity, and the scent of the sun baking the bricks of the houses in this neighborhood. I feel indolent, but not musical. I am waitressing while I try to find a job in New York. One that allows me to pay the rent without taxing my brain. I can be a night owl and wouldn’t mind writing until the wee hours after work.
   The Holy Spirit! Bernard, you waste no time. I believe he is grace and wisdom.
   I hope your work is going well.

Sincerely,
FrancesOctober 30, 1957
Dear Frances—
   There are pigeons here too. These Italian boys hoot and coo at the young foreign women wandering through the piazzas. Both sides are intractable—the boys with their intense conviction that they can catch something this way, the girls in their perturbation, their furrowed brows. It gives me great pleasure to sit and watch this. I keep hoping that one of these days a girl will whirl around and take one up on his invitation.
   I’ve never been to Philadelphia.
   I don’t believe in wasting time when I’ve met someone I want to know more of.
   I don’t know what the Holy Spirit is or does. I think this is because I came to Catholicism late and have felt hesitant to penetrate this mystery. Protestants shove the Holy Spirit to the side—too mystical, too much a distraction from the Father and Son. They regard the Holy Spirit with the same suspicion, I think, as they do the saints—it’s a form of idolatry to shift the focus to a third party, whether it be the Holy Spirit or Saint Francis. To appeal to the third party is pagan. Is he grace and wisdom? How do you know?
   Let’s not ever talk of work in these letters. When I see you again I want to talk to you about work, but I am envisioning our correspondence as a spiritual dialogue.Sincerely,
Bernard

 

Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Publishers Weekly on 2012-09-03:
Frances and Bernard are writers. She's a novelist who studied at Iowa, Catholic, a bit prim, but tart-tongued. He's a poet, descended from Puritans but a convert to Catholicism, prone to fits of mania. They meet in the late 1950s in a writer's colony and become friends. If this sounds like Flannery O'Connor and Robert Lowell, it should: Frances and Bernard are their fictionalized avatars, with Frances the more fictional, since she's neither Southern nor suffering from an incurable disease. Short but satisfying, this epistolary novel covers roughly nine years, as Frances and Bernard grow closer, at first through letters, then visits, always fending off questions from themselves and others about whether they could be more than friends. If Bauer makes things better for O'Connor than they were in actuality, she does it without cheating on her characters, who, whatever their real life inspirations, are fictional and obligated only to work in that form. Bauer's debut novel (after her memoir, Not That Kind of Girl) is well written, engrossing, and succeeds in making Frances and Bernard's shared interest in religion believable and their relationship funny, sweet, and sad. A lovely surprise. Agent: PJ Mark, Janklow & Nesbit. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Appeared in Library Journal on 2013-07-01:
Bauer's (Not That Kind of Girl) latest imagines the relationship writers Robert Lowell and Flannery O'Connor might have had. Frances and Bernard meet one summer at a writers' colony and start an alliance of the mind, growing closer as they write letters over several years in which they discuss their writing, their faith, and the jobs each takes to provide food and shelter. Epistolary works can be difficult to imbue with emotion owing, in part, to the lack of dialog. The narrators, Angela Brazil and Stephen R. Throne, do a wonderful job; Brazil is especially skilled at conveying the emotional depth in Frances' letters. -VERDICT Recommend to listeners who enjoy works of a meditative nature, or who like works such as Jonathan and Tad Richards's Nick and Jake. ["This remarkable method of storytelling provides snapshots of the events that shape the story. This book will appeal to readers who enjoy plumbing the depths of the human condition," read the review of the Houghton Harcourt hc, LJ 9/1/12.-Ed.]-Suanne B. Roush, Seminole, FL (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Reviews
Review Quotes
"Three stars. Bauer''s first novel is a moving tale about kindred spirits... It showcases an era in which literature and intellect were celebrated; its epistolary form lends itself to a delightful exchange of ideas as the protagonists dance with the possibility of loveand face its disappointments." People " Graceful and gem-like .... Through Bauer's sharp, witty, and elegant prose , [ Frances and Bernard ] become vibrant and original characters .... These are not your typical lovebirds, but writers with fierce and fine intellects.... We are reminded of the power of correspondence the flirtation of it, the nervousness, the delicious uncertainty of writing bold things and then waiting days, weeks, or even months for a reply. After finishing this sweet and somber novel, we might sigh and think, ''It's a shame we don't write love letters anymore'' before stopping for a moment to marvel at the subtlety of what Bauer has wrought out of history and a generous imagination , and being thankful that someone still is." Boston Globe "In her lively, intelligent new novel, Carlene Bauer creates two characters who are so present on the page, we seem to be eavesdropping on their conversation.... Their letters dance and sparkle with the passion of two minds delighting in each other.... It''s a small gem, reflecting the rare joy of finding someone who is, quixotically, counterintuively and completely, yours." More "Our fave new novel.... You''ll laugh and cry [at these] oh-so-beautifully-written letters." Self "Beautifully imagined." Martha Stewart''s Whole Living "Incandescent... A wholly original, fully fleshed, sparklingly alive, thrilling, moving, jam-packed epistolary novel of a mere 208 pages. I finished this novel in tears, not at all ready to have it end, but with the satisfied, enthralled sense that it had accomplished exactly, perfectly, what it needed to." Kate Christensen, Elle "There are so many reasons to love this perfect novel, not least because before our eyes Bauer quietly reveals the lovers to each other, and to themselves, while she explores all of the important problems of faith, work, art, marriage, passion, and how best to lead the life that you think you''re meant to live. Frances and Bernard is smart and clear and deep and beautiful. I worship it." Jane Hamilton, author of Disobedience , A Map of the World , and The Book of Ruth "Short but satisfying...well written, engrossing , and succeeds in making Frances and Bernard's shared interest in religion believable and their relationship funny, sweet, and sad. A lovely surprise ." Publishers Weekly (starred review) "[A] debut novel of stunning subtlety, grace, and depth...Bauer's use of the epistolary form is masterful as she forges a passionately spiritual, creative, and romantic dialogue between characters based on two literary giants famous for their brilliant letters, Flannery O'Connor and Robert Lowell. Though she changes the particulars of O'Connor's life, Bauer retains the great writer's rigor, humor, faith, penetrating insights, and wisdom. In Bernard, she embraces Lowell's protean powers, tempestuousness, and manic depression. They begin as friends sharing their thoughts and feelings about the church and writing and gradually, cautiously on Frances' part, venture into love. Frances can be lacerating; Bernard is extravagant...Bauer is phenomenally fluent in the voices and sensibilities she so intently emulates, composing dueling letters of breathtaking wit, seduction, and heartbreak... Bauer's piercing novel is dynamic in structure, dramatic in emotion and event, and fierce in its inquiry into religion, love, and art. " Booklist (starred review) "A series of erudite letters, some of which are exchanged between the two rich and somewhat eccentric protagonists, and some are written by these characters to others. This remarkable method of storytelling provides snapshots of the events that shape the story." Library Journal "I''ll never stop raving about FRANCES AND BERNARD. I loved, admired and devoured it; didn''t want it to end. What is better than a good novel in letters? A great one. Carlene Bauer has written a book that is dear, brilliant, and unforgettable." Elinor Lipman "I have rarely encountered historical fiction that seems to spring so authentically from the period in which it''s set. The two correspondents in Carlene Bauer''s book, along with their families and friends, come wittily alive in the letters they exchange, and those letters end up accumulating a terrific narrative and emotional force. Bauer recaptures a time in which people took one another more seriously, an era when they still inclined toward epistolary explorations instead of self-promoting tweets. Frances and Bernard is one of the best first novels I''ve read in years." Thomas Mallon, author of Watergate and Henry and Clara "Dazzling and gorgeously written, Frances and Bernard features a pair of brilliant, complicated writers who present themselves to each other in letters that form the most exciting epistolary novel in recent memory. A slim book, it still seems to say all of the important things about friendship, faith, love, the literary life, and especially the costs of living as an artist while still inhabiting the real world. It's a marvel." Ann Packer, author of The Dive from Clausen's Pier and Songs Without Words "A wholly original, very moving novel about how sometimes the deepest relationships in our lives are also the most impossible. The letters between Frances and Bernardwhich begin as witty, sometimes wary, and full of unusual confidences about love and spiritual mattersexplode with passion on the page. My eyes filled with tears. It is wonderful to read something so rare and true. What a rich writer and two unforgettable lovers! I was sorry to reach its end." Stephanie Cowell, author of Claude and Camille: A Novel of Monet and The Physician of London "I had ten pages left as the bus pulled into my home station, and I wanted to murder the driver for rousting me from my seat. Instead of heading home, I stood in the parking lot and finished the book right then and there. I did not merely love Frances and Bernard; I worried myself sick over them. And the prose! So delectable you could eat it for dessert." Monica Wood, author of When We Were the Kennedys and Any Bitter Thing
"There are so many reasons to love this perfect novel, not least because before our eyes Bauer quietly reveals the lovers to each other, and to themselves, while she explores all of the important problems of faith, work, art, marriage, passion, and how best to lead the life that you think you''re meant to live. Frances and Bernard is smart and clear and deep and beautiful. I worship it." Jane Hamilton, author of Disobedience , A Map of the World , and The Book of Ruth "Short but satisfying...well written, engrossing , and succeeds in making Frances and Bernard's shared interest in religion believable and their relationship funny, sweet, and sad. A lovely surprise ." Publishers Weekly (starred review) "[A] debut novel of stunning subtlety, grace, and depth...Bauer's use of the epistolary form is masterful as she forges a passionately spiritual, creative, and romantic dialogue between characters based on two literary giants famous for their brilliant letters, Flannery O'Connor and Robert Lowell. Though she changes the particulars of O'Connor's life, Bauer retains the great writer's rigor, humor, faith, penetrating insights, and wisdom. In Bernard, she embraces Lowell's protean powers, tempestuousness, and manic depression. They begin as friends sharing their thoughts and feelings about the church and writing and gradually, cautiously on Frances' part, venture into love. Frances can be lacerating; Bernard is extravagant...Bauer is phenomenally fluent in the voices and sensibilities she so intently emulates, composing dueling letters of breathtaking wit, seduction, and heartbreak... Bauer's piercing novel is dynamic in structure, dramatic in emotion and event, and fierce in its inquiry into religion, love, and art. " Booklist (starred review) "A series of erudite letters, some of which are exchanged between the two rich and somewhat eccentric protagonists, and some are written by these characters to others. This remarkable method of storytelling provides snapshots of the events that shape the story." Library Journal "I''ll never stop raving about FRANCIS AND BERNARD. I loved, admired and devoured it; didn''t want it to end. What is better than a good novel in letters? A great one. Carlene Bauer has written a book that is dear, brilliant, and unforgettable." Elinor Lipman "I have rarely encountered historical fiction that seems to spring so authentically from the period in which it''s set. The two correspondents in Carlene Bauer''s book, along with their families and friends, come wittily alive in the letters they exchange, and those letters end up accumulating a terrific narrative and emotional force. Bauer recaptures a time in which people took one another more seriously, an era when they still inclined toward epistolary explorations instead of self-promoting tweets. Frances and Bernard is one of the best first novels I''ve read in years." Thomas Mallon, author of Watergate and Henry and Clara "Dazzling and gorgeously written, Frances and Bernard features a pair of brilliant, complicated writers who present themselves to each other in letters that form the most exciting epistolary novel in recent memory. A slim book, it still seems to say all of the important things about friendship, faith, love, the literary life, and especially the costs of living as an artist while still inhabiting the real world. It's a marvel." Ann Packer, author of The Dive from Clausen's Pier and Songs Without Words "A wholly original, very moving novel about how sometimes the deepest relationships in our lives are also the most impossible. The letters between Frances and Bernardwhich begin as witty, sometimes wary, and full of unusual confidences about love and spiritual mattersexplode with passion on the page. My eyes filled with tears. It is wonderful to read something so rare and true. What a rich writer and two unforgettable lovers! I was sorry to reach its end." Stephanie Cowell, author of Claude and Camille: A Novel of Monet and The Physician of London "I had ten pages left as the bus pulled into my home station, and I wanted to murder the driver for rousting me from my seat. Instead of heading home, I stood in the parking lot and finished the book right then and there. I did not merely love Frances and Bernard; I worried myself sick over them. And the prose! So delectable you could eat it for dessert." Monica Wood, author of When We Were the Kennedys and Any Bitter Thing
"There are so many reasons to love this perfect novel, not least because before our eyes Bauer quietly reveals the lovers to each other, and to themselves, while she explores all of the important problems of faith, work, art, marriage, passion, and how best to lead the life that you think you''re meant to live. Frances and Bernard is smart and clear and deep and beautiful. I worship it."Jane Hamilton, author of Disobedience , A Map of the World , and The Book of Ruth "Short but satisfying...well written, engrossing , and succeeds in making Frances and Bernard's shared interest in religion believable and their relationship funny, sweet, and sad. A lovely surprise ." - Publishers Weekly (starred) "[A] debut novel of stunning subtlety, grace, and depth...Bauer's use of the epistolary form is masterful as she forges a passionately spiritual, creative, and romantic dialogue between characters based on two literary giants famous for their brilliant letters, Flannery O'Connor and Robert Lowell. Though she changes the particulars of O'Connor's life, Bauer retains the great writer's rigor, humor, faith, penetrating insights, and wisdom. In Bernard, she embraces Lowell's protean powers, tempestuousness, and manic depression. They begin as friends sharing their thoughts and feelings about the church and writing and gradually, cautiously on Frances' part, venture into love. Frances can be lacerating; Bernard is extravagant...Bauer is phenomenally fluent in the voices and sensibilities she so intently emulates, composing dueling letters of breathtaking wit, seduction, and heartbreak... Bauer's piercing novel is dynamic in structure, dramatic in emotion and event, and fierce in its inquiry into religion, love, and art. " Booklist (review) "A series of erudite letters, some of which are exchanged between the two rich and somewhat eccentric protagonists, and some are written by these characters to others. This remarkable method of storytelling provides snapshots of the events that shape the story." - Library Journal "I''ll never stop raving about FRANCIS AND BERNARD. I loved, admired and devoured it; didn''t want it to end. What is better than a good novel in letters? A great one. Carlene Bauer has written a book that is dear, brilliant, and unforgettable." -Elinor Lipman "I have rarely encountered historical fiction that seems to spring so authentically from the period in which it''s set. The two correspondents in Carlene Bauer''s book, along with their families and friends, come wittily alive in the letters they exchange, and those letters end up accumulating a terrific narrative and emotional force. Bauer recaptures a time in which people took one another more seriously, an era when they still inclined toward epistolary explorations instead of self-promoting tweets. Frances and Bernard is one of the best first novels I''ve read in years." Thomas Mallon, author of Watergate and Henry and Clara (among many others) "Dazzling and gorgeously written, Frances and Bernard features a pair of brilliant, complicated writers who present themselves to each other in letters that form the most exciting epistolary novel in recent memory. A slim book, it still seems to say all of the important things about friendship, faith, love, the literary life, and especially the costs of living as an artist while still inhabiting the real world. It's a marvel." Ann Packer, author of The Dive from Clausen's Pier and Songs Without Words "A wholly original, very moving novel about how sometimes the deepest relationships in our lives are also the most impossible. The letters between Frances and Bernardwhich begin as witty, sometimes wary, and full of unusual confidences about love and spiritual mattersexplode with passion on the page. My eyes filled with tears. It is wonderful to read something so rare and true. What a rich writer and two unforgettable lovers! I was sorry to reach its end." Stephanie Cowell, author of Claude and Camille: A Novel of Monet and The Physician of London "I had ten pages left as the bus pulled into my home station, and I wanted to murder the driver for rousting me from my seat. Instead of heading home, I stood in the parking lot and finished the book right then and there. I did not merely love Frances and Bernard; I worried myself sick over them. And the prose! So delectable you could eat it for dessert." Monica Wood, author of When We Were the Kennedys and Any Bitter Thing
"Short but satisfying...well written, engrossing , and succeeds in making Frances and Bernard's shared interest in religion believable and their relationship funny, sweet, and sad. A lovely surprise ." - Publishers Weekly (starred) "[A] debut novel of stunning subtlety, grace, and depth...Bauer's use of the epistolary form is masterful as she forges a passionately spiritual, creative, and romantic dialogue between characters based on two literary giants famous for their brilliant letters, Flannery O'Connor and Robert Lowell. Though she changes the particulars of O'Connor's life, Bauer retains the great writer's rigor, humor, faith, penetrating insights, and wisdom. In Bernard, she embraces Lowell's protean powers, tempestuousness, and manic depression. They begin as friends sharing their thoughts and feelings about the church and writing and gradually, cautiously on Frances' part, venture into love. Frances can be lacerating; Bernard is extravagant...Bauer is phenomenally fluent in the voices and sensibilities she so intently emulates, composing dueling letters of breathtaking wit, seduction, and heartbreak... Bauer's piercing novel is dynamic in structure, dramatic in emotion and event, and fierce in its inquiry into religion, love, and art. " Booklist (review) "A series of erudite letters, some of which are exchanged between the two rich and somewhat eccentric protagonists, and some are written by these characters to others. This remarkable method of storytelling provides snapshots of the events that shape the story." - Library Journal "I''ll never stop raving about FRANCIS AND BERNARD. I loved, admired and devoured it; didn''t want it to end. What is better than a good novel in letters? A great one. Carlene Bauer has written a book that is dear, brilliant, and unforgettable." -Elinor Lipman "I have rarely encountered historical fiction that seems to spring so authentically from the period in which it''s set. The two correspondents in Carlene Bauer''s book, along with their families and friends, come wittily alive in the letters they exchange, and those letters end up accumulating a terrific narrative and emotional force. Bauer recaptures a time in which people took one another more seriously, an era when they still inclined toward epistolary explorations instead of self-promoting tweets. Frances and Bernard is one of the best first novels I''ve read in years." Thomas Mallon, author of Watergate and Henry and Clara (among many others) "Dazzling and gorgeously written, Frances and Bernard features a pair of brilliant, complicated writers who present themselves to each other in letters that form the most exciting epistolary novel in recent memory. A slim book, it still seems to say all of the important things about friendship, faith, love, the literary life, and especially the costs of living as an artist while still inhabiting the real world. It's a marvel." Ann Packer, author of The Dive from Clausen's Pier and Songs Without Words "A wholly original, very moving novel about how sometimes the deepest relationships in our lives are also the most impossible. The letters between Frances and Bernardwhich begin as witty, sometimes wary, and full of unusual confidences about love and spiritual mattersexplode with passion on the page. My eyes filled with tears. It is wonderful to read something so rare and true. What a rich writer and two unforgettable lovers! I was sorry to reach its end." Stephanie Cowell, author of Claude and Camille: A Novel of Monet and The Physician of London "I had ten pages left as the bus pulled into my home station, and I wanted to murder the driver for rousting me from my seat. Instead of heading home, I stood in the parking lot and finished the book right then and there. I did not merely love Frances and Bernard; I worried myself sick over them. And the prose! So delectable you could eat it for dessert." Monica Wood, author of When We Were the Kennedys and Any Bitter Thing
"I have rarely encountered historical fiction that seems to spring so authentically from the period in which it's set. The two correspondents in Carlene Bauer's book, along with their families and friends, come wittily alive in the letters they exchange, and those letters end up accumulating a terrific narrative and emotional force. Bauer recaptures a time in which people took one another more seriously, an era when they still inclined toward epistolary explorations instead of self-promoting tweets. Frances and Bernard is one of the best first novels I've read in years." Thomas Mallon, author of Watergate and Henry and Clara (among many others) "Dazzling and gorgeously written, Frances and Bernard features a pair of brilliant, complicated writers who present themselves to each other in letters that form the most exciting epistolary novel in recent memory. A slim book, it still seems to say all of the important things about friendship, faith, love, the literary life, and especially the costs of living as an artist while still inhabiting the real world. It's a marvel." Ann Packer, author of The Dive from Clausen's Pier and Songs Without Words "A wholly original, very moving novel about how sometimes the deepest relationships in our lives are also the most impossible. The letters between Frances and Bernardwhich begin as witty, sometimes wary, and full of unusual confidences about love and spiritual mattersexplode with passion on the page. My eyes filled with tears. It is wonderful to read something so rare and true. What a rich writer and two unforgettable lovers! I was sorry to reach its end." Stephanie Cowell, author of Claude and Camille: A Novel of Monet and The Physician of London "I had ten pages left as the bus pulled into my home station, and I wanted to murder the driver for rousting me from my seat. Instead of heading home, I stood in the parking lot and finished the book right then and there. I did not merely love Frances and Bernard; I worried myself sick over them. And the prose! So delectable you could eat it for dessert." Monica Wood, author of When We Were the Kennedys and Any Bitter Thing "In the late 1950s, over the course of one long lunch at a writer's workshop, Frances and Bernard begin a journey of love and loss.... Bauer captures their affair in a series of erudite letters, some of which are exchanged between the tworich and somewhat eccentric protagonists, and some are written by these characters to others. This remarkable method of storytelling provides snapshots of the events that shape the story. VERDICT This book will appeal to readers who enjoying plumbing the depths of the human condition." -- Library Journal
" Graceful and gem-like .... Through Bauer's sharp, witty, and elegant prose , [ Frances and Bernard ] become vibrant and original characters .... These are not your typical lovebirds, but writers with fierce and fine intellects.... We are reminded of the power of correspondence the flirtation of it, the nervousness, the delicious uncertainty of writing bold things and then waiting days, weeks, or even months for a reply. After finishing this sweet and somber novel, we might sigh and think, ''It's a shame we don't write love letters anymore'' before stopping for a moment to marvel at the subtlety of what Bauer has wrought out of history and a generous imagination , and being thankful that someone still is." Boston Globe "In her lively, intelligent new novel, Carlene Bauer creates two characters who are so present on the page, we seem to be eavesdropping on their conversation.... Their letters dance and sparkle with the passion of two minds delighting in each other.... It''s a small gem, reflecting the rare joy of finding someone who is, quixotically, counterintuively and completely, yours." More "Our fave new novel.... You''ll laugh and cry [at these] oh-so-beautifully-written letters." Self "Beautifully imagined." Martha Stewart''s Whole Living "Incandescent... A wholly original, fully fleshed, sparklingly alive, thrilling, moving, jam-packed epistolary novel of a mere 208 pages. I finished this novel in tears, not at all ready to have it end, but with the satisfied, enthralled sense that it had accomplished exactly, perfectly, what it needed to." Kate Christensen, Elle "There are so many reasons to love this perfect novel, not least because before our eyes Bauer quietly reveals the lovers to each other, and to themselves, while she explores all of the important problems of faith, work, art, marriage, passion, and how best to lead the life that you think you''re meant to live. Frances and Bernard is smart and clear and deep and beautiful. I worship it." Jane Hamilton, author of Disobedience , A Map of the World , and The Book of Ruth "Short but satisfying...well written, engrossing , and succeeds in making Frances and Bernard's shared interest in religion believable and their relationship funny, sweet, and sad. A lovely surprise ." Publishers Weekly (starred review) "[A] debut novel of stunning subtlety, grace, and depth...Bauer's use of the epistolary form is masterful as she forges a passionately spiritual, creative, and romantic dialogue between characters based on two literary giants famous for their brilliant letters, Flannery O'Connor and Robert Lowell. Though she changes the particulars of O'Connor's life, Bauer retains the great writer's rigor, humor, faith, penetrating insights, and wisdom. In Bernard, she embraces Lowell's protean powers, tempestuousness, and manic depression. They begin as friends sharing their thoughts and feelings about the church and writing and gradually, cautiously on Frances' part, venture into love. Frances can be lacerating; Bernard is extravagant...Bauer is phenomenally fluent in the voices and sensibilities she so intently emulates, composing dueling letters of breathtaking wit, seduction, and heartbreak... Bauer's piercing novel is dynamic in structure, dramatic in emotion and event, and fierce in its inquiry into religion, love, and art. " Booklist (starred review) "A series of erudite letters, some of which are exchanged between the two rich and somewhat eccentric protagonists, and some are written by these characters to others. This remarkable method of storytelling provides snapshots of the events that shape the story." Library Journal "I''ll never stop raving about FRANCES AND BERNARD. I loved, admired and devoured it; didn''t want it to end. What is better than a good novel in letters? A great one. Carlene Bauer has written a book that is dear, brilliant, and unforgettable." Elinor Lipman "I have rarely encountered historical fiction that seems to spring so authentically from the period in which it''s set. The two correspondents in Carlene Bauer''s book, along with their families and friends, come wittily alive in the letters they exchange, and those letters end up accumulating a terrific narrative and emotional force. Bauer recaptures a time in which people took one another more seriously, an era when they still inclined toward epistolary explorations instead of self-promoting tweets. Frances and Bernard is one of the best first novels I''ve read in years." Thomas Mallon, author of Watergate and Henry and Clara "Dazzling and gorgeously written, Frances and Bernard features a pair of brilliant, complicated writers who present themselves to each other in letters that form the most exciting epistolary novel in recent memory. A slim book, it still seems to say all of the important things about friendship, faith, love, the literary life, and especially the costs of living as an artist while still inhabiting the real world. It's a marvel." Ann Packer, author of The Dive from Clausen's Pier and Songs Without Words "A wholly original, very moving novel about how sometimes the deepest relationships in our lives are also the most impossible. The letters between Frances and Bernardwhich begin as witty, sometimes wary, and full of unusual confidences about love and spiritual mattersexplode with passion on the page. My eyes filled with tears. It is wonderful to read something so rare and true. What a rich writer and two unforgettable lovers! I was sorry to reach its end." Stephanie Cowell, author of Claude and Camille: A Novel of Monet and The Physician of London "I had ten pages left as the bus pulled into my home station, and I wanted to murder the driver for rousting me from my seat. Instead of heading home, I stood in the parking lot and finished the book right then and there. I did not merely love Frances and Bernard; I worried myself sick over them. And the prose! So delectable you could eat it for dessert." Monica Wood, author of When We Were the Kennedys and Any Bitter Thing
"Dazzling and gorgeously written, Frances and Bernard features a pair of brilliant, complicated writers who present themselves to each other in letters that form the most exciting epistolary novel in recent memory. A slim book, it still seems to say all of the important things about friendship, faith, love, the literary life, and especially the costs of living as an artist while still inhabiting the real world. It's a marvel." Ann Packer, author of The Dive from Clausen's Pier and Songs Without Words "A wholly original, very moving novel about how sometimes the deepest relationships in our lives are also the most impossible. The letters between Frances and Bernardwhich begin as witty, sometimes wary, and full of unusual confidences about love and spiritual mattersexplode with passion on the page. My eyes filled with tears. It is wonderful to read something so rare and true. What a rich writer and two unforgettable lovers! I was sorry to reach its end." Stephanie Cowell, author of Claude and Camille: A Novel of Monet and The Physician of London "I had ten pages left as the bus pulled into my home station, and I wanted to murder the driver for rousting me from my seat. Instead of heading home, I stood in the parking lot and finished the book right then and there. I did not merely love Frances and Bernard; I worried myself sick over them. And the prose! So delectable you could eat it for dessert." Monica Wood, author of When We Were the Kennedys and Any Bitter Thing
"A wholly original, very moving novel about how sometimes the deepest relationships in our lives are also the most impossible. The letters between Frances and Bernardwhich begin as witty, sometimes wary, and full of unusual confidences about love and spiritual mattersexplode with passion on the page. My eyes filled with tears. It is wonderful to read something so rare and true. What a rich writer and two unforgettable lovers! I was sorry to reach its end." Stephanie Cowell, author of Claude and Camille: A Novel of Monet and The Physician of London "I had ten pages left as the bus pulled into my home station, and I wanted to murder the driver for rousting me from my seat. Instead of heading home, I stood in the parking lot and finished the book right then and there. I did not merely love Frances and Bernard; I worried myself sick over them. And the prose! So delectable you could eat it for dessert." Monica Wood, author of When We Were the Kennedys and Any Bitter Thing
"A wholly original, very moving novel about how sometimes the deepest relationships in our lives are also the most impossible. The letters between Frances and Bernardwhich begin as witty, sometimes wary, and full of unusual confidences about love and spiritual mattersexplode with passion on the page. My eyes filled with tears. It is wonderful to read something so rare and true. What a rich writer and two unforgettable lovers! I was sorry to reach its end." Stephanie Cowell, author of Claude and Camille: A Novel of Monet and The Physician of London
"A story of conversion, shattered love and the loss of faith, recalling 20th century masters like Graham Greene and Walker Percy...Frances is refreshingly down-to-earth in her spiritual convictions...Bauer gets right... the shifting balance of literary ambition and emotional need, Yeats's old choice between perfection of the life or of the work. Bauer is herself a distinctive stylist who can write about Simone Weil or Kierkegaard with wit and charm. A fresh voice thinking seriously about what a religiously committed life might have felt like and perhaps, in our own far-from tranquil period, might feel like again. " - New York Times Book Review" Graceful and gem-like .... Through Bauer's sharp, witty, and elegant prose, [Frances and Bernard] become vibrant and original characters .... These are not your typical lovebirds, but writers with fierce and fine intellects.... We are reminded of the power of correspondence the flirtation of it, the nervousness, the delicious uncertainty of writing bold things and then waiting days, weeks, or even months for a reply. After finishing this sweet and somber novel, we might sigh and think, ''It''s a shame we don't write love letters anymore'' before stopping for a moment to marvel at the subtlety of what Bauer has wrought out of history and a generous imagination, and being thankful that someone still is."-- Boston Globe "Frances and Bernard portrays two writers drawn into a friendship sparked by mutual admiration. They elegantly convey their reflections, encouragements and chastisements in letters written over a span of 11 years... Bauer captures the style and language of the period with gleeful dexterity ....Bauer is masterful in whipping up the frenzy of Bernard's unstable certainty that she is the answer to his Olympian quest...Bauer, who has published a memoir about her evangelical childhood and subsequent conversion to Catholicism, writes with authority and gusto about issues of faith . The prose here is exquisite, winding between narrative momentum and lofty introspection . And she employs the epistolary form nimbly, providing an intimate, uncluttered space for her characters to develop . The most unexpected pleasure of this period love story is spending time in the company of people who are engaged in the edifying pursuit of living as Christians a good reminder that , regardless of the current upheaval in the church, the big questions are still worth asking .-- The Washington Post " A debut novel of stunning subtlety, grace, and depth . Bauer's use of the epistolary form is masterful as she forges a passionately spiritual, creative, and romantic dialogue between characters based on two literary giants famous for their brilliant letters, Flannery O'Connor and Robert Lowell . Though she changes the particulars of O'Connor's life, Bauer retains the great writer's rigor, humor, faith, penetrating insights, and wisdom. Bauer is phenomenally fluent in the voices and sensibilities she so intently emulates, composing dueling letters of breathtaking wit, seduction, and heartbreak . Spanning a stormy decade, Bauer's piercing novel is dynamic in structure, dramatic in emotion and event, and fierce in its inquiry into religion, love, and art. " -- Booklist "There are so many reasons to love this perfect novel, not least because before our eyes, Bauer quietly reveals the lovers to each other, and to themselves , while she explores all of the important problems of faith, work, art, marriage, passion, and how best to lead the life that you think you''re meant to live. Frances and Bernard is smart and clear and deep and beautiful. I worship it." Jane Hamilton" I''ll never stop raving about FRANCES AND BERNARD . I loved, admired and devoured it; didn''t want it to end. What is better than a good novel in letters? A great one. Carlene Bauer has written a book that is dear, brilliant, and unforgettable ."--Elinor Lipman"Short but satisfying ... well written, engrossing , and succeeds in making Frances and Bernard's shared interest in religion believable and their relationship funny, sweet, and sad. A lovely surprise. "-- Publishers Weekly (starred)"A series of erudite letters, some of which are exchanged between the two rich and somewhat eccentric protagonists , and some are written by these characters to others. This remarkable method of storytelling provides snapshots of the events that shape the story."-- Library Journal "I have rarely encountered historical fiction that seems to spring so authentically from the period in which it''s set. The two correspondents in Carlene Bauer''s book, along with their families and friends, come wittily alive in the letters they exchange, and those letters end up accumulating a terrific narrative and emotional force. Bauer recaptures a time in which people took one another more seriously, an era when they still inclined toward epistolary explorations instead of self-promoting tweets. Frances and Bernard is one of the best first novels I''ve read in years. "--Thomas Mallon" Dazzling and gorgeously written , FRANCES AND BERNARD features a pair of brilliant, complicated writers who present themselves to each other in letters that form the most exciting epistolary novel in recent memory . A slim book, it still seems to say all of the important things about friendship, faith, love, the literary life, and especially the costs of living as an artist while still inhabiting the real world. It's a marvel ." Ann Packer, author of The Dive from Clausen's Pier and Songs Without Words "I had ten pages left as the bus pulled into my home station, and I wanted to murder the driver for rousting me from my seat. Instead of heading home, I stood in the parking lot and finished the book right then and there. I did not merely love Frances and Bernard; I worried myself sick over them. And the prose! So delectable you could eat it for dessert. " Monica Wood, author of When We Were the Kennedys and Any Bitter Thing " A truly original, very moving novel about how sometimes the deepest relationships in our lives are also the most impossible . The letters between Frances and Bernard-- which begin as witty, sometimes wary, and full of unusual confidences about love and spiritual matters-- explode with passion on the page. My eyes filled with tears. It is wonderful to read something so rare and true. What a rich writer and two unforgettable lovers! " -- Stephanie Cowell, author of Claude and Camille: a novel of Monet and The Physician of London (American Book Award)
"[A] debut novel of stunning subtlety, grace, and depth...Bauer's use of the epistolary form is masterful as she forges a passionately spiritual, creative, and romantic dialogue between characters based on two literary giants famous for their brilliant letters, Flannery O'Connor and Robert Lowell. Though she changes the particulars of O'Connor's life, Bauer retains the great writer's rigor, humor, faith, penetrating insights, and wisdom. In Bernard, she embraces Lowell's protean powers, tempestuousness, and manic depression. They begin as friends sharing their thoughts and feelings about the church and writing and gradually, cautiously on Frances' part, venture into love. Frances can be lacerating; Bernard is extravagant...Bauer is phenomenally fluent in the voices and sensibilities she so intently emulates, composing dueling letters of breathtaking wit, seduction, and heartbreak...Bauer's piercing novel is dynamic in structure, dramatic in emotion and event, and fierce in its inquiry into religion, love, and art." Booklist , starred review "I have rarely encountered historical fiction that seems to spring so authentically from the period in which it''s set. The two correspondents in Carlene Bauer''s book, along with their families and friends, come wittily alive in the letters they exchange, and those letters end up accumulating a terrific narrative and emotional force. Bauer recaptures a time in which people took one another more seriously, an era when they still inclined toward epistolary explorations instead of self-promoting tweets. Frances and Bernard is one of the best first novels I''ve read in years." Thomas Mallon, author of Watergate and Henry and Clara (among many others) "Dazzling and gorgeously written, Frances and Bernard features a pair of brilliant, complicated writers who present themselves to each other in letters that form the most exciting epistolary novel in recent memory. A slim book, it still seems to say all of the important things about friendship, faith, love, the literary life, and especially the costs of living as an artist while still inhabiting the real world. It's a marvel." Ann Packer, author of The Dive from Clausen's Pier and Songs Without Words "A wholly original, very moving novel about how sometimes the deepest relationships in our lives are also the most impossible. The letters between Frances and Bernardwhich begin as witty, sometimes wary, and full of unusual confidences about love and spiritual mattersexplode with passion on the page. My eyes filled with tears. It is wonderful to read something so rare and true. What a rich writer and two unforgettable lovers! I was sorry to reach its end." Stephanie Cowell, author of Claude and Camille: A Novel of Monet and The Physician of London "I had ten pages left as the bus pulled into my home station, and I wanted to murder the driver for rousting me from my seat. Instead of heading home, I stood in the parking lot and finished the book right then and there. I did not merely love Frances and Bernard; I worried myself sick over them. And the prose! So delectable you could eat it for dessert." Monica Wood, author of When We Were the Kennedys and Any Bitter Thing "In the late 1950s, over the course of one long lunch at a writer's workshop, Frances and Bernard begin a journey of love and loss.... Bauer captures their affair in a series of erudite letters, some of which are exchanged between the tworich and somewhat eccentric protagonists, and some are written by these characters to others. This remarkable method of storytelling provides snapshots of the events that shape the story. VERDICT This book will appeal to readers who enjoying plumbing the depths of the human condition." -- Library Journal
This item was reviewed in:
Library Journal, September 2012
Publishers Weekly, September 2012
Booklist, October 2012
Boston Globe, February 2013
Kirkus Reviews, February 2013
New York Times Book Review, March 2013
New York Times Full Text Review, March 2013
The Australian, June 2013
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Summaries
Main Description
The summer of 1957, Frances and Bernard meet at a writer's colony. She finds him faintly ridiculous, but talented. He sees her as aloof, but intriguing. Afterwards, he writes her a letter. Soon they are immersed in the kind of fast, deep friendship that can take overand change the course ofour lives. Bernard is a poetwell-born, Harvard-educated, gregarious, passionate. Frances is a fiction writer--daughter of a middle-class Irish family, wry, fairly (and often unfairly) judgmental. She is deeply Catholic; he is a convert who yearns to sound out matters of the spirit. He is well into his writing career; she is looking for a way into New York literary life. So begins an extraordinary novel told in absorbing correspondence that explores faith, creativity, depression, passion, what it means to be a true friend, the nature of acceptable sacrifice. How much should we give up for those we love? In w itness to all the wonder of kindred spirits and bittersweet romance, Frances and Bernard is a tribute to the power of friendship.
Main Description
In the summer of 1957, Frances and Bernard meet at an artists' colony. She finds him faintly ridiculous, but talented. He sees her as aloof, but intriguing. Afterward, he writes her a letter. Soon they fall into the kind of fast, deep friendship that can take overand change the course ofour lives. Inspired by Flannery O'Connor and Robert Lowell, Frances and Bernard explores, through new characters with charms entirely their own, the limits of faith, passion, sanity, what it means to be a true friend, and the nature of acceptable sacrifice. In the grandness of the fall, can we love another person so completely that we lose ourselves? In witness to all the wonder of kindred spirits and bittersweet romance, Frances and Bernard is a tribute to the power of friendship and the people who help us discover who we are.
Main Description
In the summer of 1957, Frances and Bernard meet at a writers'™ colony. She finds him faintly ridiculous, but talented. He sees her as aloof, but intriguing. Afterward, he writes her a letter. Soon they are immersed in the kind of fast, deep friendship that can take over'and change the course of'our lives. Bernard is a poet'wellborn, Harvard-educated, gregarious, passionate. Frances is a fiction writer'daughter of a middle-class Irish family, wry, fairly (and often unfairly) judgmental. She is deeply Catholic; he is a convert who yearns to sound out matters of the spirit. He is well into his writing career; she is looking for a way into New York literary life. So begins an extraordinary novel told in absorbing correspondence that explores faith, creativity, depression, passion, what it means to be a true friend, and the nature of acceptable sacrifice.
Main Description
Inspired by Flannery O'Connor and Robert Lowell, this novel in letters immerses us inside a moving literary love story and transports us to mid-twentieth-century New York in all its glamour and zip The summer of 1957, Frances and Bernard meet at a writer's colony. She finds him faintly ridiculous, but talented. He sees her as aloof, but intriguing. Afterwards, he writes her a letter. Soon they are immersed in the kind of fast, deep friendship that can take overand change the course ofour lives. Bernard is a poetwell-born, Harvard-educated, gregarious, passionate. Frances is a fiction writer--daughter of a middle-class Irish family, wry, fairly (and often unfairly) judgmental. She is deeply Catholic; he is a convert who yearns to sound out matters of the spirit. He is well into his writing career; she is looking for a way into New York literary life. So begins an extraordinary novel told in absorbing correspondence that explores faith, creativity, depression, passion, what it means to be a true friend, the nature of acceptable sacrifice. How much should we give up for those we love? In witness to all the wonder of kindred spirits and bittersweet romance, Frances and Bernard is a tribute to the power of friendship.
Main Description
In the summer of 1957, Frances and Bernard meet at an artists' colony. She finds him faintly ridiculous, but talented. He sees her as aloof, but intriguing. Afterward, he writes her a letter. Soon they fall into the kind of fast, deep friendship that can take over-and change the course of-our lives. Inspired by Flannery O'Connor and Robert Lowell, Frances and Bernard explores, through new characters with charms entirely their own, the limits of faith, passion, sanity, what it means to be a true friend, and the nature of acceptable sacrifice. In the grandness of the fall, can we love another person so completely that we lose ourselves? In witness to all the wonder of kindred spirits and bittersweet romance, Frances and Bernard is a tribute to the power of friendship and the people who help us discover who we are.
Main Description
Inspired by Flannery O'Connor and Robert Lowell, this novel in letters immerses us inside a moving literary love story and transports us to mid-twentieth-century New York in all its glamour and zip In the summer of 1957, Frances and Bernard meet at a writers' colony. She finds him faintly ridiculous, but talented. He sees her as aloof, but intriguing. Afterward, he sends her a letter. Soon they are engaged in the kind of fast, deep connection that can take over and change the course of our lives. Bernard is a poetwell-born, Harvard-educated, gregarious, passionate. Frances is a fiction writer--daughter of a middle-class Irish family, wry, fairly (and often unfairly) judgmental. She is deeply Catholic; he is a convert who yearns to sound out matters of the spirit. He is well into his writing career; she is looking for a way into New York literary life. So begins an extraordinary novel told in absorbing correspondence that explores faith, creativity, depression, passion, what it means to be a true friend, the nature of acceptable sacrifice. How much should we give up for those we love? In witness to all the wonder of kindred spirits and bittersweet romance, Frances and Bernard is a tribute to the power of friendship.
Main Description
Inspired by Flannery O'Connor and Robert Lowell, this novel in letters immerses us inside a moving literary love story and transports us to mid-twentieth-century New York in all its glamour and zip In the summer of 1957, Frances and Bernard meet at a writers' colony. She finds him faintly ridiculous, but talented. He sees her as aloof, but intriguing. Afterward, he sends her a letter. Soon they are engaged in the kind of fast, deep connection that can take over - and change the course of - our lives. Bernard is a poet-well-born, Harvard-educated, gregarious, passionate. Frances is a fiction writer--daughter of a middle-class Irish family, wry, fairly (and often unfairly) judgmental. She is deeply Catholic; he is a convert who yearns to sound out matters of the spirit. He is well into his writing career; she is looking for a way into New York literary life. So begins an extraordinary novel told in absorbing correspondence that explores faith, creativity, depression, passion, what it means to be a true friend, the nature of acceptable sacrifice. How much should we give up for those we love? In witness to all the wonder of kindred spirits and bittersweet romance, Frances and Bernard is a tribute to the power of friendship.
Main Description
"A novel of stunning subtlety, grace, and depth . . . compos[ed in] dueling letters of breathtaking wit, seduction, and heartbreak." Booklist , starred review A letter can spark a friendship. A friendship can change your life. In the summer of 1957, Frances and Bernard meet at an artists' colony. She finds him faintly ridiculous, but talented. He sees her as aloof, but intriguing. Afterward, he writes her a letter. Soon they are immersed in the kind of fast, deep friendship that can take overand change the course ofour lives. From points afar, they find their way to New York and, for a few whirling years, each other. The city is a wonderland for young people with dreams: cramped West Village kitchens, rowdy cocktail parties stocked with the sharp-witted and glamorous, taxis that can take you anywhere at all, long talks along the Hudson River as the lights of the Empire State Building blink on above. Inspired by the lives of Flannery O'Connor and Robert Lowell, Frances and Bernard imagines, through new characters with charms entirely their own, what else might have happened. It explores the limits of faith, passion, sanity, what it means to be a true friend, and the nature of acceptable sacrifice. In the grandness of the fall, can we love another person so completely that we lose ourselves? How much should we give up for those we love? How do we honor the gifts our loved ones bring and still keep true to our dreams? In witness to all the wonder of kindred spirits and bittersweet romance, Frances and Bernard is a tribute to the power of friendship and the people who help us discover who we are.
Main Description
"A novel of stunning subtlety, grace, and depth . . . compos[ed in] dueling letters of breathtaking wit, seduction, and heartbreak." - Booklist , starred review A letter can spark a friendship. A friendship can change your life. In the summer of 1957, Frances and Bernard meet at an artists' colony. She finds him faintly ridiculous, but talented. He sees her as aloof, but intriguing. Afterward, he writes her a letter. Soon they are immersed in the kind of fast, deep friendship that can take over-and change the course of-our lives. From points afar, they find their way to New York and, for a few whirling years, each other. The city is a wonderland for young people with dreams: cramped West Village kitchens, rowdy cocktail parties stocked with the sharp-witted and glamorous, taxis that can take you anywhere at all, long talks along the Hudson River as the lights of the Empire State Building blink on above. Inspired by the lives of Flannery O'Connor and Robert Lowell, Frances and Bernard imagines, through new characters with charms entirely their own, what else might have happened. It explores the limits of faith, passion, sanity, what it means to be a true friend, and the nature of acceptable sacrifice. In the grandness of the fall, can we love another person so completely that we lose ourselves? How much should we give up for those we love? How do we honor the gifts our loved ones bring and still keep true to our dreams? In witness to all the wonder of kindred spirits and bittersweet romance, Frances and Bernard is a tribute to the power of friendship and the people who help us discover who we are.

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