Synopses & Reviews
From the New York Times bestselling author of The Women, a historical novel about three women’s lives on a California island
On a tiny, desolate, windswept island off the coast of Southern California, two families, one in the 1880s and one in the 1930s, come to start new lives and pursue dreams of self-reliance and freedom. Their extraordinary stories, full of struggle and hope, are the subject of T. C. Boyle’s haunting new novel.
Thirty-eight-year-old Marantha Waters arrives on San Miguel on New Year’s Day 1888 to restore her failing health. Joined by her husband, a stubborn, driven Civil War veteran who will take over the operation of the sheep ranch on the island, Marantha strives to persevere in the face of the hardships, some anticipated and some not, of living in such brutal isolation. Two years later their adopted teenage daughter, Edith, an aspiring actress, will exploit every opportunity to escape the captivity her father has imposed on her. Time closes in on them all and as the new century approaches, the ranch stands untenanted. And then in March 1930, Elise Lester, a librarian from New York City, settles on San Miguel with her husband, Herbie, a World War I veteran full of manic energy. As the years go on they find a measure of fulfillment and serenity; Elise gives birth to two daughters, and the family even achieves a celebrity of sorts. But will the peace and beauty of the island see them through the impending war as it had seen them through the Depression?Rendered in Boyle’s accomplished, assured voice, with great period detail and utterly memorable characters, this is a moving and dramatic work from one of America’s most talented and inventive storytellers.
Praise for San Miguel
“An absorbing work of historical fiction based on the lives of two real families who resided on San Miguel island in the 19th and 20th centuries…the intensity of Boyle’s narrative never lets it flag.” –Ron Charles, The Washington Post
“A saga of women, three women brought to the island by men…Boyle has carved out a beautiful, damp, atmospheric novel, sharp and exacting…[his] spirited novels are a reckoning with consequence laced with humor, insight, and pathos.” –Terry Tempest Williams, The San Francisco Chronicle
“Throughout his career, Boyle has shown a fascination with remote, forgotten places as a kind of stage where various shadings of the American character are revealed…As always, he fills his pages with wonderfully precise character studies and lush descriptions of the physical landscape.” –Hector Tobar, The Los Angeles Times
“The story of two families who lived on the windiest and wildest of the Channel Islands…the layering of these isolated lives, the archeology of human habitation, the different responses to self-sufficiency make this one of the most satisfying novels in Boyle’s canon.” –Susan Salter Reynolds, Los Angeles Magazine
“In T.C. Boyle’s San Miguel, two strong women generations apart are seduced and mistreated by the same powerful entity – not a man but a starkly beautiful, barely inhabited island off the California coast…Boyle portrays the heartbreaking toll San Miguel takes on these couples in a novel as beguiling as the island itself.” –O The Oprah Magazine
“In his latest novel, this prolific man of letters focuses on one of his most engaging subjects: the inner lives of women…Boyle devotes meticulous attention to the unforgiving weather and the challenges of sheer survival, to the mute compromises of marriage and to the unspoken experience of all women who rage, endure, and prevail.” –More Magazine
“The pioneer mystique – its romance, and its disillusions – is the subject of T.C. Boyle’s San Miguel, in which the promise of a natural paradise draws two adventure-seeking women to the remote Channel Islands, fifty years apart.” –Vogue.com
“Boyle’s epic saga of struggle, loss, and resilience tackles Pacific pioneer history with literary verve…[he] subtly interweaves the fates of Native Americans, Irish immigrants, Spanish and Italian migrant workers, and Chinese fisherman into the Waters’ and Lesters’ lives, but the novel is primarily a history of the land itself, unchanging despite its various visitors and residents, and as beautiful, imperfect, and unrelenting as Boyle’s characters.” – Publishers Weekly
“A richly rewarding read…As ever, Boyle’s prose is vivid and precise, and he imbues his subjects with wonderful complexity. The perils and pleasures of island living, the limits to natural resources, and the echoes of war all provide ample grist for his mill.” – ALA Booklist
“The fourteenth novel from Boyle returns to the Channel Islands off the coast of California, a setting which served him so well in his previous novel…What may seem to some like paradise offers no happy endings in this fine novel.” – Kirkus Reviews
Praise for Mrs. Hemingway
***A Harpers Bazaar (UK) Best Book of 2014***
***A Stylist Magazine (UK) Best Book of 2014***
“Magnetic… assembles a satisfying puzzle of personalities, bringing each relationships beginning, end and overlap into vivid focus.”
—Leisl Schillinger, The New York Times Book Review
“Wood has given us a fascinating, astutely observed, gorgeously written account of the Hemingway wives and their charismatic, enigmatic, troubled and troublesome husband. This is a gem of a book.”
—Therese Anne Fowler, New York Times bestselling author of Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald
“Naomi Woods absorbing, illuminating novel offers fascinating portraits of four extraordinary women and the tortured literary genius who loved them. If you thought you knew all there was to know about Ernest Hemingways wives, their passions, and their heartbreak, think again.”
—Jennifer Chiaverini, New York Times bestselling author of Mrs. Lincolns Dressmaker and Mrs. Lincolns Rival
“It takes an unusual skill to keep someone reading a story to which they think they already know the ending. But Mrs. Hemingway is so beautifully written, and evocative, that I could not put it down until the last page.”
—Jojo Moyes, New York Times bestselling author of Me Before You
“With remarkable insight and boldness, Naomi Wood brilliantly takes on one of historys most remembered writers and the women who loved him. Obsessively readable, fascinating, and heartbreaking, Mrs. Hemingway captures a time and people in a style the legend himself would no doubt admire.”
—Erika Robuck, bestselling author of Hemingways Girl
“Forget everything you thought you knew about Ernest Hemingways four wives. In a quartet of searing interlocked portraits, Naomi Wood brings vividly to life the real women who loved and lost the legendary charmer and great writer. Mrs. Hemingway is a luminous heartbreaking novel. Wood is a writer to watch.”
—Ellen Feldman, Orange Prize-shortlisted author of Lucy
“A detailed and deeply affecting account of the complex relationship between love and work.” —Ian Sansom, author of The Case of the Missing Books
“It's superb, everything about it - the sentences, details, dialogue, but also the architecture, the way it's built. It flirts with all thats already known, but the women feel real and fresh, and through their eyes so does Hemingway.”
—Andrew Cowan, author of Pig
“Luminous, intoxicating…A passionate novel based on real lives, full of betrayals and moments of heartbreaking intimacy as Wood gives four remarkable women star billing.”
—Marie Claire (UK)
"Readers who enjoyed Loving Frank and The Paris Wife will adore this ideal summer read. Seamlessly blending known facts with fiction, Mrs. Heminway is an absorbing, tender glimpse inside the lives of those in Hemingway's inner circle."
“Well researched . . . interesting . . . [and] cleverly done.”
—Literary Review (UK)
“Exquisitely written, the Mrs. Hemingways finally have their say in this beautiful novel.”
—Stylist Magazine (UK)
“A beautiful read and an amazing insight into the life of the man . . . superb.”
“Very occasionally, a piece of fiction based on facts is so good that I catch myself thinking: ‘Oh, so thats how it really was. Wood achieves this in this breathtakingly good look at the lives of Ernest Hemingways four wives . . . . Sublime.”
—The Bookseller (UK)
"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
"With wonderful writing, elegant, pithy and witty, the author reeled me in from the very beginning. Two young writers in another, more genteel place and time, a burgeoning friendship, the possibility of romance? It struck me as the perfect confection...[It] wrestle[s] with big questions in gorgeous and sharply hewn language. There is much to admire in this smart, ambitious, debut novel." - Pittsburgh post-Gazette
"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
"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."—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 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 dazzling novel of Frank Lloyd Wright, told from the point of view of the women in his life
Having brought to life eccentric cereal king John Harvey Kellogg in The Road to Wellville and sex researcher Alfred Kinsey in The Inner Circle, T.C. Boyle now turns his fictional sights on an even more colorful and outlandish character: Frank Lloyd Wright. Boyleas account of Wrightas life, as told through the experiences of the four women who loved him, blazes with his trademark wit and invention. Wrightas life was one long howling struggle against the bonds of convention, whether aesthetic, social, moral, or romantic. He never did what was expected and despite the overblown scandals surrounding his amours and very public divorces and the financial disarray that dogged him throughout his career, he never let anything get in the way of his larger-than-life appetites and visions. Wrightas triumphs and defeats were always tied to the women he loved: the Montenegrin beauty Olgivanna Milanoff; the passionate Southern belle Maud Miriam Noel; the spirited Mamah Cheney, tragically killed; and his young first wife, Kitty Tobin. In The Women, T.C. Boyleas protean voice captures these very different women and, in doing so, creates a masterful ode to the creative life in all its complexity and grandeur.
Having brought to life eccentric cereal king John Harvey Kellogg in "The Road to Wellville" and sex researcher Alfred Kinsey in "The Inner Circle," Boyle now turns his fictional sights on an even more colorful and outlandish character: Frank Lloyd Wright.
From "America's most imaginative contemporary novelist" (Newsweek), a novel of Frank Lloyd Wright and the women in his life.
Having brought to life eccentric cereal king John Harvey Kellogg in The Road to Wellville and sex researcher Alfred Kinsey in The Inner Circle, T.C. Boyle now turns his fictional sights on an even more colorful and outlandish character: Frank Lloyd Wright. Boyle's incomparable account of Wright's life is told through the experiences of the four women who loved him. There's the Montenegrin beauty Olgivanna Milanoff, the passionate Southern belle Maude Miriam Noel, the tragic Mamah Cheney, and his young first wife, Kitty Tobin. Blazing with his trademark wit and inventiveness, Boyle deftly captures these very different women and the creative life in all its complexity.
The Paris Wife
was only the beginning of the story . . .
Paula McLains New York Timesbestselling novel piqued readers interest about Ernest Hemingways romantic life. But Hadley was only one of four women married, in turn, to the legendary writer. Just as T.C. Boyles bestseller The Women completed the picture begun by Nancy Horans Loving Frank, Naomi Woods Mrs. Hemingway tells the story of how it was to love, and be loved by, the most famous and dashing writer of his generation. As each wife struggles with his mistress for Ernests heart, and a place in his bed, each marriage slips from tenderness to treachery. Each Mrs. Hemingway thought it would last forever. Each one was wrong.
Told in four parts and populated with members of the fabled Lost Generation”including Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and F. Scott FitzgeraldMrs. Hemingway interweaves the love letters, diaries, and telegrams of four very different women into one spellbinding tale.
The Paris Wife
was only the beginning of the story . . .
A New York Times Book Review Editor's Choice
Paula McLains New York Timesbestselling novel piqued readers interest about Ernest Hemingways romantic life. But Hadley was only one of four women married, in turn, to the legendary writer. Just as T.C. Boyles bestseller The Women completed the picture begun by Nancy Horans Loving Frank, Naomi Woods Mrs. Hemingway tells the story of how it was to love, and be loved by, the most famous and dashing writer of his generation. Hadley, Pauline, Martha and Mary: each Mrs. Hemingway thought their love would last forever; each one was wrong.
Told in four parts and based on real love letters and telegrams, Mrs. Hemingway reveals the explosive love triangles that wrecked each of Hemingway's marriages. Spanning 1920s bohemian Paris through 1960s Cold War America, populated with members of the fabled "Lost Generation," Mrs. Heminway is a riveting tale of passion, love, and heartbreak.
"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
Frances and Bernard meet in the summer of 1957. Afterward, he writes her a letter. Soon they are immersed in the kind of fast, deep friendship that can change the course of our lives. 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, parties stocked with the sharp-witted and glamorous, taxis that can take you anywhere at all, long talks along the Hudson 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. In the grandness of the fall, can we love another person so completely that we lose 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.
About the Author
Naomi Wood studied for her undergraduate degree at Cambridge and has a master's and doctorate from the University of East Anglia. Her research for Mrs. Hemingway took her from the British Library to the Library of Congress, and to Ernest Hemingway's homes and old haunts in Chicago, Paris, Antibes, Key West, and Havana. She is also the author of The Godless Boys, which was published in the UK. Naomi was awarded the 2012 inaugural Eccles Centre British Library Writer in Resident Award. She teaches at the University of East Anglia and lives in London. Mrs. Hemingway is her American debut.