A well-informed, intuitive account of a singular modernist writer whose life is cut short.

KATHERINE MANSFIELD

A historical novel reconstructs the life of Katherine Mansfield as she becomes a noted short story writer and critic while battling tuberculosis.

Though Mansfield’s life begins in New Zealand in the late 19th century, she makes her mark on the literary world in England. An eventual friend and contemporary of Virginia Woolf, Mansfield is sent to Queens College in London at the age of 14. In New Zealand after graduation, Mansfield persuades her wealthy father to let her return to England to pursue a career in the arts. He grudgingly agrees, offering her a small allowance, hoping that poverty will convince her to come home. In London, she dabbles in music and performance and becomes a hit at parties. But the literary world beckons, and after her first short story collection is published, she connects with and eventually marries John Middleton Murry, the publisher of a new literary journal. Unfortunately, an earlier fling in Bavaria leaves her with gonorrhea and then she contracts tuberculosis. As her literary star is rising due to her innovative stream-of-consciousness style, Mansfield becomes increasingly more ill and flees to Italy for better weather. During a protracted five-year battle with TB, she seeks a miracle cure while never ceasing to write stories and reviews, creating an impressive body of work in a very short lifetime. FitzPatrick’s heavily researched novel, which focuses mainly on the five years that Mansfield fights her battle with TB, truly gets into the head of the innovative writer as she balances career, a shaky marriage, and a fatal illness while struggling financially. The dialogue and period details are convincing, and bright spots come from close friends, including Woolf, but mostly the bizarrely devoted Ida Baker, a writer, whom FitzPatrick re-creates with generosity. The story is a tragic one, but the author deftly captures Mansfield’s fervent dedication to her craft and her unwavering hope that she will overcome her illness.

A well-informed, intuitive account of a singular modernist writer whose life is cut short.

Pub Date: Oct. 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-9916549-8-7

Page Count: 308

Publisher: La Drome Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020

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For devoted Hannah fans in search of a good cry.

THE FOUR WINDS

The miseries of the Depression and Dust Bowl years shape the destiny of a Texas family.

“Hope is a coin I carry: an American penny, given to me by a man I came to love. There were times in my journey when I felt as if that penny and the hope it represented were the only things that kept me going.” We meet Elsa Wolcott in Dalhart, Texas, in 1921, on the eve of her 25th birthday, and wind up with her in California in 1936 in a saga of almost unrelieved woe. Despised by her shallow parents and sisters for being sickly and unattractive—“too tall, too thin, too pale, too unsure of herself”—Elsa escapes their cruelty when a single night of abandon leads to pregnancy and forced marriage to the son of Italian immigrant farmers. Though she finds some joy working the land, tending the animals, and learning her way around Mama Rose's kitchen, her marriage is never happy, the pleasures of early motherhood are brief, and soon the disastrous droughts of the 1930s drive all the farmers of the area to despair and starvation. Elsa's search for a better life for her children takes them out west to California, where things turn out to be even worse. While she never overcomes her low self-esteem about her looks, Elsa displays an iron core of character and courage as she faces dust storms, floods, hunger riots, homelessness, poverty, the misery of migrant labor, bigotry, union busting, violent goons, and more. The pedantic aims of the novel are hard to ignore as Hannah embodies her history lesson in what feels like a series of sepia-toned postcards depicting melodramatic scenes and clichéd emotions.

For devoted Hannah fans in search of a good cry.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-2501-7860-2

Page Count: 464

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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A whimsical fantasy about learning what’s important in life.

THE MIDNIGHT LIBRARY

An unhappy woman who tries to commit suicide finds herself in a mysterious library that allows her to explore new lives.

How far would you go to address every regret you ever had? That’s the question at the heart of Haig’s latest novel, which imagines the plane between life and death as a vast library filled with books detailing every existence a person could have. Thrust into this mysterious way station is Nora Seed, a depressed and desperate woman estranged from her family and friends. Nora has just lost her job, and her cat is dead. Believing she has no reason to go on, she writes a farewell note and takes an overdose of antidepressants. But instead of waking up in heaven, hell, or eternal nothingness, she finds herself in a library filled with books that offer her a chance to experience an infinite number of new lives. Guided by Mrs. Elm, her former school librarian, she can pull a book from the shelf and enter a new existence—as a country pub owner with her ex-boyfriend, as a researcher on an Arctic island, as a rock star singing in stadiums full of screaming fans. But how will she know which life will make her happy? This book isn't heavy on hows; you won’t need an advanced degree in quantum physics or string theory to follow its simple yet fantastical logic. Predicting the path Nora will ultimately choose isn’t difficult, either. Haig treats the subject of suicide with a light touch, and the book’s playful tone will be welcome to readers who like their fantasies sweet if a little too forgettable.

A whimsical fantasy about learning what’s important in life.

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-52-555947-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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