Books by Denise Giardina

EMILY’S GHOST by Denise Giardina
Released: July 27, 2009

"Something less than the definitive portrait of a frustratingly elusive great writer, but an agreeable read nonetheless, and a good bet for reading groups."
Giardina turns from socially conscious historical novels (Fallam's Secret, 2003, etc.) to a fictionalized biography of sui generis poet and novelist Emily Brontë. Read full book review >
FALLAM’S SECRET by Denise Giardina
Released: March 1, 2003

"A pleasant diversion a feel for the period and some neat surprises, though things drag toward the end and dawdle to the finish line."
Giardina (Saints and Villains, 1998, etc.) time-travels to Puritan England. Read full book review >
SAINTS AND VILLAINS by Denise Giardina
Released: Feb. 1, 1998

Giardina, whose previous novels Storming Heaven (1987) and The Unquiet Earth (1992) offered thoughtful, provocative considerations of the struggles of American labor, surpasses herself with this powerful re-creation of the life and martyrdom of German pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer (190645), who participated in a plot to kill Hitler and was executed at Buchenwald in the waning days of the war. In a crisp, flexible style that skillfully alternates past and present tense, Giardina creates a compelling image of a pampered boy whose gentle nature was indulged by his prosperous family (and was nurtured by Dietrich's closeness to his twin sister, Sabine). Despite his inability to become a conventional believer, the boy grew up convinced of the morality of religious observance, and this lavishly developed story gives detailed attention to Dietrich's studies at New York's Union Theological Seminary (with Reinhold Niebuhr), his horrified encounter with American racism, his pastorates in England (where he befriended T.S. Eliot) and Germany (where he was endangered when his increasing criticisms of Nazism climaxed in the ultimatum that his countrymen choose ``Germanism or Christianity''), his service in German Military Intelligence, during which he worked against his superior officers, and a long period of imprisonment and interrogation prior to his death. This was a life lived very much in the world, and Giardina characterizes in moving depth the two women Dietrich loved and lost, as well as a vivid host of confederates and enemies, including the cautiously accommodating pastor Martin Niemîller, and the SS officer and later Judge Advocate Alois Bauer, a brilliantly imagined character whose cat-and-mouse games with his prisoner give the story a tremendous climactic charge. Giardina has the gift of making intellectual argument excitingly dramatic, this time with a dozen or more passionate exchanges in which the fate of civilization and the responsibilities of citizens are memorably debated. A big novel in every sense of the word, and a triumphant portrayal of one of the century's authentic heroes. Read full book review >
THE UNQUIET EARTH by Denise Giardina
Released: June 1, 1992

A disappointingly unaffecting saga from West Virginia novelist Giardina (Good King Harry, 1984, Storming Heaven, 1987) about the deathwatch of a once-vibrant Appalachian mining community. Beginning when coal was still king with the 1930's childhood of central characters Rachel and cousin Dillon, Giardina introduces the men and women who live along Blackberry Creek. They are a small and close community of representative types: Arthur Lee, the company man who finally comes through decades later when tragedy strikes because ``they are my people too''; Doyle Ray, who goes to Vietnam and returns a fundamentalist preacher; Toejam, of small intellect but big heart, who marries crippled Brenda; and Hassel, a bar-owner and the most memorable and original character here, who is set on building a bridge across the creek to make life a little easier for everybody. These people's lives are shaped and dominated by the coal seams that permeate their beloved mountains and give them employment. Though Dillon, a labor activist and son of a martyred union organizer, and Rachel love each other, Rachel marries Italian bookkeeper Tony. But passion will out: the other two get together, and Jackie is conceived, though she won't know that Dillon is her real dad for most of the book. When Jackie grows up, she meets VISTA worker Tom—the 1960's War on Poverty is on— but Tom is going to be a priest, so Jackie goes to work in Washington. She's unable to forget the mountains or Tom, however, so she returns to Blackberry Creek. Here, miners are being dismissed, benefits cut, even the great strike of the 1980's is ignored by the usual sympathizers; and when the dam, built of slag at the valley head, finally bursts, the destruction of the community is complete. Lives of not-so-quiet desperation luminously described, but despite a great subject and setting, the major characters who should hold it all together never do. Read full book review >