Books by Clare Harkness

TIME OF GRACE by Clare Harkness
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Oct. 1, 1995

From the British author of Monsieur de Brillancourt (1994) comes this aristocratic, sometimes inaccessible muddle through which two memorable characters emerge. The eccentric Imogen Holt (from Manta, Italy) and the irrepressible Jessica Grantsby-Harte (a diplomat's daughter who has lived all over the world) are among the only non-Catholic students at the unbearably strict Convent of the Immaculate Conception in England. As outcasts, they strike up a lifelong friendshipdescribed here by Imogen in a series of flashbacks framed by a sketchy modern-day narrative about a middle-aged Imogen and Jessica clearing out an attic full of letters, journals, and memories. After the convent and the Sorbonne, the girls are rarely in the same country at the same time, but they make equally bad decisions when it comes to love: Imogen loses her heart to the worldly Anthony, then catches him locked in an embrace with her twin brother, Simon; and Jessica marries the irascible Dermot, a young man who later drowns in a drunken accident. A triply brokenhearted Imogen (having lost Anthony, Simon, and Jessicato Dermot) marries the ever-unfaithful Enrico, a suitor from her Paris days, and moves to Washington, D.C., for his career. Through it all, Imogen's insightful grandmother tries to guide the impulsive pair, but it takes the wisdom gained from their own mistakes to make Imogen and Jessica realize their shared destiny. Although their conclusion seems motivated more by a mutual hatred of the men who've used and abused them than by any genuine passion, the soulmates become lovers and live happily-ever-after with their respective offspring in Imogen's childhood home. Unbearably stilted in spotscharacters speak in lengthy monologues, frequent passages in several foreign languages prove a daunting turn-off, and the intended-to-shock finale is coyand yet, overall, Imogen and Jessica are an engaging pair. Read full book review >
MONSIEUR DE BRILLANCOURT by Clare Harkness
Released: Feb. 1, 1995

In her American debut, British writer Harkness offers an uneven fairy tale of unrequited love. Once upon a time, in a remote section of southeastern France, lived an elderly Prince Charming in an ugly old chÉteau. Alone except for his maid and cook, Virgil de Brillancourt is actually quite happy. He has his exceptional library, his collections of insects and magnifying glasses, his beautiful garden, and the occasional companionship of numerous amiable relatives. Although he is a handsome man and a very fine dancer, M. de Brillancourt has never married; at 69 his romantic memories center on the fairy lights from summer balls given for his sisters. The only thing he pines for is children: He misses the ``patter of tiny feet''; he longs to tell eager little ones about the ongoing battle between the wasps and stag beetles that live in the trees around his home. In order to acquire some children, M. de Brillancourt builds a swimming pool and rents out part of his chÉteau to a young Englishwoman and her family. One day, after seeing his tenant in only the bottom half of her bikini, M. de Brillancourt falls in love. Radiant with happiness, he celebrates his belatedly awakened passion by buying a red Lamborghini. He becomes gregarious and, at the first party he has ever given, he waltzes with his true love. But it's his only fling. When she returns to London, he goes mad. A comic subplot in which M. de Brillancourt's relatives try to protect him from suspected alcoholism and cross-dressing seems contrived to flesh a short story into a novella, and his fatal depression seems too fast a wrap-up for this lovely man. At its best, a charming sketch of a shy eccentric with mouthwatering vistas of the Ardäche. But in the end, the plot and charm seem force-fed. Read full book review >