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Foreign Bodiesby Cynthia Ozick
Synopses & Reviews
“An absorbing achievement .º.º. A nimble, entertaining literary homage, but it is also, chillingly, what James would have called ‘the real thing.”—New York Times Book Review
Cynthia Ozick is a literary treasure. In her sixth novel, she retraces Henry Jamess The Ambassadors and delivers a brilliant, utterly new American classic.
At the center of the story is Bea Nightingale, a fiftyish divorced schoolteacher whose life has been on hold during the many years since her brief marriage. When her estranged, difficult brother asks her to travel to Europe to retrieve a nephew she barely knows, she becomes entangled in the lives of his family. Over the course of a few months she travels from New York to Paris to Hollywood, aiding and abetting her nephew and niece while waging a war of letters with her brother, and finally facing her ex-husband to shake off his lingering sneers from decades past. As she inadvertently wreaks havoc in their lives, every one of them is irrevocably changed.
“Raucous, funny, ferocious, and tragic. A literary master, as James was, Ozick makes all those qualities fit together seamlessly, and with heartbreaking effect.”—Philadelphia Inquirer
“Dazzling, even masterful.”—Entertainment Weekly
By the summer of 1952, Beatrice Nightingale had taught school in New York City for 24 years, had been divorced from her Hollywood-composer husband for some 20 of those years, and had been estranged from her brother for nearly her entire life. She had lived in the same small apartment since her wedding, a space still dominated by her ex-husband's piano--just as her life was still defined by his decisions of so long ago.
But that summer, her brother suddenly reached out to her for the first time in years, begging her to intercept and retrieve her nephew, a Paris runaway. His request propels Bea toward decisions and departures--partly well intended, partly selfish--that unravel a complex knot of siblings, spouses, exes, and Bea's extended family, in an unforgettable portrait of a middle-aged woman who finally gains the chance to escape the traps of her past. Bea travels to Paris, California, and back to New York, and the novel shifts perspective to reveal the stories of her niece, her nephew and his unexpected wife, Bea's brother and sister-in-law, and her ex-husband. The men in her life have treated her badly, as she is painfully aware, yet in finally trying to gain her own independence from them, how can she resist her own, more subtle form of counterattack and revenge?
Ozicks latest work of fiction brings together four long stories, including the novella-length "Dictation," that showcase this incomparable writers sly humor and piercing insight into the human heart. Each starts in the comic mode, with heroes who suffer from willful self-deceit. From self-deception, these not-so-innocents proceed to deceive others, who dont take it lightly. Revenge is the consequence—and for the reader, a delicious if dark recognition of emotional truth.
The glorious novella "Dictation" imagines a fateful meeting between the secretaries to Henry James and Joseph Conrad at the peak of those authors fame. Timid Miss Hallowes, who types for Conrad, comes under the influence of Jamess Miss Bosanquet, high-spirited, flirtatious, and scheming. In a masterstroke of genius, Ozick hatches a plot between them to insert themselves into posterity.
Ozick is at her most devious, delightful best in these four works, illuminating the ease with which comedy can glide into calamity.
Money and conscience are at the heart of Cynthia Ozick's masterly first novel, narrated by a nameless young woman and set in the private world of wealthy New York, the dire landscape of postwar Europe, and the mythical groves of a Shakespearean isle. Beginning in the 1930s and extending through four decades, Trust is an epic tale of the narrator's quest for her elusive father, a scandalous figure whom she has never known. In a provocative afterword, Ozick reflects on how she came to write the novel and discusses the cultural shift in the nature of literary ambition in the years since.
About the Author
CYNTHIA OZICK is the author of numerous acclaimed works of fiction and nonfiction. She is a recipient of the National Book Critics Circle Award and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the Man Booker International Prize. Her stories have won four O. Henry first prizes.
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