Synopses & Reviews
The New York Times bestselling author of Mrs. Lincolns Dressmaker, Jennifer Chiaverini, reveals the famous First Ladys very public social and political contest with Kate Chase Sprague, memorialized as one of the most remarkable women ever known to Washington society.” (Providence Journal)
Kate Chase Sprague was born in 1840 in Cincinnati, Ohio, the second daughter to the second wife of a devout but ambitious lawyer. Her father, Salmon P. Chase, rose to prominence in the antebellum years and was appointed secretary of the treasury in Abraham Lincolns cabinet, while aspiring to even greater heights.
Beautiful, intelligent, regal, and entrancing, young Kate Chase stepped into the role of establishing her thrice-widowed father in Washington society and as a future presidential candidate. Her efforts were successful enough that The Washington Star declared her the most brilliant woman of her day. None outshone her.”
None, that is, but Mary Todd Lincoln. Though Mrs. Lincoln and her young rival held much in commonpolitical acumen, love of country, and a resolute determination to help the men they loved achieve greatnessthey could never be friends, for the success of one could come only at the expense of the other. When Kate Chase married William Sprague, the wealthy young governor of Rhode Island, it was widely regarded as the pinnacle of Washington society weddings. President Lincoln was in attendance. The First Lady was not.
Jennifer Chiaverini excels at chronicling the lives of extraordinary yet littleknown women through historical fiction. What she did for Elizabeth Keckley in Mrs. Lincolns Dressmaker and for Elizabeth Van Lew in The Spymistress she does for Kate Chase Sprague in Mrs. Lincolns Rival.
"McLain (A Ticket to Ride) offers a vivid addition to the complex-woman-behind-the-legendary-man genre, bringing Ernest Hemingway and his first wife, Hadley Richardson, to life. Meeting through mutual friends in Chicago, Hadley is intrigued by the brash 'beautiful boy,' and after a brief courtship and small wedding, Hadley and Ernest take off for Paris, 'the place to be,' according to Sherwood Anderson. McLain ably portrays the cultural icons of the 1920s Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald, and Ezra and Dorothy Pound and the impact they have on the then unknown Hemingway, casting Hadley as a rock of Gibraltar for a troubled man whose brilliance and talent were charged and compromised by his astounding capacity for alcohol and women. Hadley, meanwhile, makes a convincing transformation from an overprotected child to a game and brave young woman who puts up with impoverished living conditions and shattering loneliness to prop up her husband's career. The historical figure cameos sometimes come across as gimmicky, but the heart of the story Ernest and Hadley's relationship gets an honest reckoning, most notably the waves of elation and despair that pull them apart. (Mar.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
Praise for Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker
“Jennifer Chiaverini imagines the First Ladys most private affairs through the eyes of an unlikely confidante.”
—Harpers Bazaar on Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker
“History—and its colorful characters—come alive.”
—USA Today on Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker
—New York Post on Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker
“Any reader interested in President Lincoln, Civil War history, or historical fiction should love this book.”
—Bookreporter.com on Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker
“Taking readers through times of war and peace as seen through the eyes of an extraordinary woman, the author brings Civil War Washington to vivid life through her meticulously researched, authentic detail. Chiaverinis characters are compelling and accurate; the reader truly feels drawn into the intimate scenes at the White House.”
—Library Journal on Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker
"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, Yeatss 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 Bauers 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 dont 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 Bernards 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
. Bauers 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 OConnor and Robert Lowell
. Though she changes the particulars of OConnors life, Bauer retains the great writers 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, Bauers piercing novel is dynamic in structure, dramatic in emotion and event, and fierce in its inquiry into religion, love, and art.
"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 Bernards 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. Its a marvel
." - Ann Packer, author of The Dive from Clausens 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 surprising and insightful novel
… blooming with richness and intelligence
…. The two [main characters] share and joust and tease and advise and explore and analyze and admire …. The careful trajectory of their intertwining and deepening relation becomes "a beautiful thing" — these two voices in Bauers fine rendering sing counterpoint that is exhilarating, and heartbreaking….
Their relation stirs into the love, for each, of a lifetime. A marvelous tracing of these lives
." -- Buffalo News
Praise for Mrs. Lincoln's Rival
"History is front and center here...this solid effort won't disappoint." - Booklist
A deeply evocative story of ambition and betrayal, The Paris Wife
captures a remarkable period of time and a love affair between two unforgettable people: Ernest Hemingway and his wife Hadley.
Chicago, 1920: Hadley Richardson is a quiet twenty-eight-year-old who has all but given up on love and happiness—until she meets Ernest Hemingway and her life changes forever. Following a whirlwind courtship and wedding, the pair set sail for Paris, where they become the golden couple in a lively and volatile group—the fabled “Lost Generation”—that includes Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald.
Though deeply in love, the Hemingways are ill prepared for the hard-drinking and fast-living life of Jazz Age Paris, which hardly values traditional notions of family and monogamy. Surrounded by beautiful women and competing egos, Ernest struggles to find the voice that will earn him a place in history, pouring all the richness and intensity of his life with Hadley and their circle of friends into the novel that will become The Sun Also Rises. Hadley, meanwhile, strives to hold on to her sense of self as the demands of life with Ernest grow costly and her roles as wife, friend, and muse become more challenging. Despite their extraordinary bond, they eventually find themselves facing the ultimate crisis of their marriage—a deception that will lead to the unraveling of everything they’ve fought so hard for.
A heartbreaking portrayal of love and torn loyalty, The Paris Wife is all the more poignant because we know that, in the end, Hemingway wrote that he would rather have died than fallen in love with anyone but Hadley.
"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. Its a marvel." —Ann Packer, author of The Dive from Clausens Pier and Songs Without Words
"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 OConnor 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.
Loosely inspired by Robert Lowell and Flannery O'Connor, this absorbing, charming novel brings us into mid-century New York and the lives and letters of two writers-- their intense friendship, their discussions of writing and art and faith, and their bittersweet romance
About the Author
“Told in the voice of Ernest Hemingway’s first wife, The Paris Wife
, by Paula McLain, is a richly imagined portrait of bohemian 1920s Paris, and of America literature’s original bad boy.” —Town & Country
“Novelist and memoirist Paula McLain traces the life of Hadley Hemingway, first wife of Ernest Hemingway, in this evocative novel set largely in Paris in the Jazz Age.” —Christian Science Monitor
"The Paris Wife is mesmerizing. Hadley Hemingway’s voice, lean and lyrical, kept me in my seat, unable to take my eyes and ears away from these young lovers. Paula McLain is a first-rate writer who creates a world you don’t want to leave. I loved this book." —Nancy Horan, New York Times bestselling author of Loving Frank
"After nearly a century, there is a reason that the Lost Generation and Paris in the 1920’s still fascinate. It was a unique intersection of time and place, people and inspiration, romance and intrigue, betrayal and tragedy. The Paris Wife brings that era to life through the eyes of Hadley Richardson Hemingway, who steps out of the shadows as the first wife of Ernest, and into the reader’s mind, as beautiful and as luminous as those extraordinary days in Paris after the Great War." —Mary Chapin Carpenter, singer and songwriter
“Despite all that has been written about Hemingway by others and by the man himself, the magic of The Paris Wife is that this Hemingway and this Paris, as imagined by Paula McLain, ring so true I felt as if I was eavesdropping on something new. As seen by the sure and steady eye of his first wife, Hadley, here is the spectacle of the man becoming the legend set against the bright jazzed heat of Paris in the 20s. As much about life and how we try and catch it as it is about love even as it vanishes, this is an utterly absorbing novel.” —Sarah Blake, New York Times bestselling author of The Postmistress
"McLain offers a vivid addition to the complex-woman-behind-the-legendary-man genre, bringing Ernest Hemingway and his first wife, Hadley Richardson, to life.... The heart of the story--Ernest and Hadley's relationship--gets an honest reckoning, most notably the waves of elation and despair that pull them apart." —Publishers Weekly