Books by Susan Minot

THIRTY GIRLS by Susan Minot
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Feb. 11, 2014

"Despite hauntingly beautiful prose, there is a secondhand feel to Esther's story, which plays fiddle to Jane's navel-gazing."
Minot (Rapture, 2002, etc.) tries to combine a fictionalized but mostly journalistic account of the abduction of Ugandan children by Joseph Kony's Lord's Resistance Army with a sexual drama about the doomed romance of an American writer and a much younger white Kenyan. Read full book review >
RAPTURE by Susan Minot
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Jan. 28, 2002

"Silly, aimless, and pretentious: Rapture reads like notes for a novel that the author had the good sense to abandon."
A loose and discursive novella by Minot (Evening, 1998, etc.), who manages here to ramble on a pretty good ways in remarkably few pages. Read full book review >
EVENING by Susan Minot
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Oct. 12, 1998

Minot (Folly, 1992, etc.) aims high in taking a long look at the beginning and end of a love-life—in a project that's not without its gripping moments but that requires an excess of artifice to stay aloft and doesn—t steadily convince. Ann Lord, 65, is dying of cancer, attended by a nurse and her various adult offspring from three not-so-happy marriages. In matters of love, Ann's entire life, it seems, has been in one way or another less than blissful—though all might have been otherwise if things had been slightly different back in 1954—when Ann was 25—during a gala seaside weekend celebrating a friend's marriage. Those were the three days when Ann met (—The person's face seemed lit from within—), loved (—The great thing was happening to her—),and lost (to another, by a cruel twist of fate) the ultra-handsome doctor and Korea vet whom she (though not necessarily the reader) fell in love with at first sight(—His tall legs kept coming toward her—). Minot's decision to pin the whole weight of the novel on one weekend causes much strain, and her best successes come when she drops romance altogether and lets her character(† la Mrs. Ramsay) meditate on loss and the passing of time (—. . . they would last and not she . . . .The things in the house were not herself—). Elsewhere, though, the burden of making the 40-year-ago weekend (—the highest point in one's life—) significant enough for the book to work tempts the author back into her familiar Hemingway-style filler-mode (—Ann had had feelings with a few other boys and with each there was something particular . . . which was unique and it seemed that the. . . feeling around Harris Arden was more unique than usual—) or into topping the story with a sensational event to try to up the psychological ante. As always with Minot, moments of incisive and telling beauty, mood, and atmosphere, but also, in this case, much that's much less. Read full book review >
FOLLY by Susan Minot
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Oct. 22, 1992

Minot (Monkeys; Lust) is a curious writer: hardly a particle of her work is original, but she writes brilliantly in the tone, manner, and style of past writers—Fitzgerald, Hemingway, James, Cather, Woolf, even Marquand and Evan Connell—the flavor and energies of whose work she seems to have absorbed like blotting paper. This, her first novel, is the story of Lilian Eliot, daughter of upper-class Boston parents, who in 1917 is swept off her feet by a handsome young man about to depart for the war. He proves something of a cad, staying in Europe after 1918 to marry there, leaving the sensitive Lilian to make what she can of her privileged but emptiness-threatened life in Boston. Not until she's 26 and the Jazz Age has arrived does Lilian meet and marry one Gilbert Finch, a quiet young man of the proper class who also fought in Europe and now enjoys bird-watching. Gilbert will provide Lilian with three children, will recover from a nervous breakdown that's rivetingly and beautifully described, and over time will give his wife—as the 1920's end and the 1930's begin sifting through the hourglass- -stability and order but not passion. The handsome young cad from 1917—Walter Vail—will reappear, giving Lilian occasion once and all to reckon up her life. Throughout, Minot offers exquisitely crafted narrative bouquets in these pages of tone-perfect and tireless garnerings from the subjects and spirit of the masters. Her eye for the acute detail is flawless, period flavor is impeccable, character is drawn with conciseness, and style is repeatedly lovely, with seldom a clumsy step. Expert, often poignantly moving prose about life in a past time and place. Rich with pleasures from start to end, so long as you don't mind their being mainly secondhand. Read full book review >

As if Monkeys (1986) drained dry the reserves of her inspiration and the barrel hasn't had time to be replenished, Minor offers here a thin and mannered volume in search of the content to fill it. With minor variations, the same story is retold in the 12 pieces here: wanly passive (and often troubled) female is exploited by callous (often power-hungry) male. The title story—a collage of short takes about the damages of indulging in fashionable decadence at a prep school—is perhaps the most successful treatment of the theme and without doubt the closest to something that gets below the surface. Other pieces tend to blur together in a series of often classroom-like exercises that remain thin and uncharactered for all their effort. A girl (nervous breakdown in her past) is snubbed, then courted, at a dinner party ("Sparks"); in a piece as if cloned from Willa Cather, a prim, aging out-of-towner is seduced by a city slicker ("City Night"); the tropes of Hemingway's "The End of Something"—ambitious boy breaks off with clinging girl—are echoed sometimes jarringly in "The Swan in the Garden" (" 'But do you have some vision of the future?' Evelyn said. 'Ev, I'm twenty-seven. Give me a break' "); in "The Feather in the Toque," a current lover at a beach house finds a telltale relic left by her predecessor; and in the diminutive Katherine Mansfield study, "Lunch with Harry," a man betrays a woman when he calls her by an earlier lover's name. Later stories, straining to draw significance from the impasses of lovers who simply lack dramatic or narrative depth, fall prey to hackneyed shortcuts: sometimes banal ("Something rose up between them and bound them there. . .They stared into each others' eyes, fascinated by what they saw there"—"The Knot"); sometimes romance-formulaic ("She did not know Charles Howe well. . .It was not until her recent success off-Broadway that he'd swooped down on her from that lofty place where deals were made and plays produced"—"Ile Seche"). The striking detail surfaces here on occasion, but the material's inertness results as often in standardisms ("A cab appeared out of nowhere and screeched to a halt") or plain missteps ("The faucet screeched through the pipes"; "Frank drove me home one night. We sat in the front seat of his car") that stand out awkwardly in such very short forms. Disappointing work, in the spare mode, that's too often jejune or unformed. Read full book review >