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Confinement Paperback – March 1, 2005

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley Trade (March 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0425200272
  • ISBN-13: 978-0425200278
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.1 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,187,453 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A Jewish refugee from Austria nurses a forbidden love for the much younger daughter of his American employer in this piercing, unusual novel by Brown (Rose's Garden; The Hatbox Baby) set in the suburban northeast in the years after WWII. Arthur Henning makes a hair-raising escape from Austria with his nine-year-old son, Toby, and later his wife, Anna, is killed in London in the Blitz. Haunted by memories of her and the trauma of Nazi persecution, Henning makes his way to the U.S., where he becomes the chauffeur and caretaker who tends to the estate of the Duvall family just outside New York. He finally channels his emotions into a deep love for the Duvall's precocious daughter, Agatha, after she becomes pregnant by an unknown suitor and is banished to a home for unwed mothers at the age of 17. Brown slowly develops their unusual friendship, rendering it in rich emotional detail. The edge in the plot comes from Henning's teenage son, Toby, who wants to see his father break away from the dysfunctional Duvall family and carve out a new life of his own. The final revelation regarding Toby's relationship with Agatha is fairly predictable, and some of the time shifts get a bit jittery when Brown dramatizes Henning's climactic separation from Agatha. But Brown's deft shaping of their unconventional love makes the novel haunting and memorable, and Henning's unusual decision to track the infant after Agatha gives birth adds some dark surprises down the stretch.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School–When Arthur Henning and his young son, Toby, arrive at the Duvall family's New York country estate one wintry night in 1946, Arthur is resolutely ready to start his new life as a chauffeur. At the onset of the Holocaust, he and his family fled to London from Vienna, but his wife and their infant daughter were killed in the Blitz. Arthur and Toby befriend Agatha, the Duvalls' daughter; when she becomes pregnant, Mr. Duvall asks his chauffeur to drive her to a home for unwed mothers. Arthur refuses to desert her, and in this act of selflessness begins to break through his own confinement of memories and overwhelming obligations to the past and the present. Brown's exquisitely written novel is a complex exploration of the horror and aftermath of war, and also of love, redemption, and the peace one makes with oneself. The book is filled with vivid history, but without a trace of sentimentality. The writing is most lyrical when the novel turns to Arthur's thoughts and memories. His transformation causes him to realize how fragile and tenacious hope is. Readers will find this story compelling and powerful, and will care about the characters' fates.–Susanne Bardelson, Kitsap Regional Library, WA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Author website:

Carrie Brown is the author of five acclaimed novels -- Rose's Garden, Lamb in Love, Confinement, The Hatbox Baby and The Rope Walk -- as well as a collection of short stories, The House on Belle Isle. A sixth novel, The Last First Day, will be published by Pantheon Books in 2013.

She has won many awards for her work, including a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, the Barnes and Noble Discover Award, the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize, The Great Lakes Book Award, and, twice, the Library of Virginia Award. Her short fiction has appeared in journals including One Story, Glimmer Train, The Georgia Review, and The Oxford American. Her work has been translated into several languages, and she has appeared at literary festivals, libraries, bookstores, and colleges and universities across the country.

A graduate of Brown University and the MFA program in Creative Writing at the University of Virginia, where she held a prestigious Henry Hoyns Fellowship, she has taught creative writing at Sweet Briar College, where she was the Margaret Banister Writer in Residence, at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro, where she was a visiting writer, and at summer conferences. She is now Distinguished Professor of Creative Writing at Hollins University in Virginia.

Carrie and her husband, the novelist John Gregory Brown, have spent their working lives writing and teaching side by side in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains at Sweet Briar College, where John Gregory Brown directs the College's creative writing program.
They have published ten books between them and raised three children on the campus at Sweet Briar. Over the years, they have been fortunate to host many of the world's great writers at their home, Sanctuary Cottage, and to introduce those writers and their work to hundreds of students.

Carrie now serves as Distinguished Visiting Professor at nearby Hollins University in Roanoke, Virginia, where she lives at the University and works with undergraduate and graduate students in the University's esteemed creative writing program. She and her husband travel between the two literary landscapes and enjoy the best of both worlds.

Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 15, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Like most of Carrie Brown's work, this one radiates with beauty -- the beauty of language and of a great story. Where she has outdone herself is in the emotional effect of the novel. I frankly wasn't prepared to love this book, and indeed felt a little impatient in the first 1/2 chapter or so. But Brown masterfully interweaves not only the characters' lives and circumstances, but also all the different kinds and consequences of love and sacrifice. It's this trait that sets it apart.
There are no cheap thrills or manufactured emotions here... nothing contrived. Brown respects her readers, and it shows. Rather, this novel and its characters step quietly into the reader's life, as if they'd been waiting for our attention all along. They spin their wonderful story, and ask only for us to watch and listen. Believe me, it's enough.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By David G. Sutliff on May 9, 2005
Format: Hardcover
'confinement' is one of the best books i have read in many years. usually i shy away from refugee stories because they become horribly sentimental, but this is just a nice story about a displaced german tailor. the writing style is good, the characters are well developed, and the ending is complete and satisfying. it shows clearly how persons with solid character persevere. buy this and get a copy for a good friend.dgs
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Luan Gaines HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 19, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Arthur Henning comes to America after fleeing his native country, but loses his wife and baby daughter to the London Blitz. Nevertheless he remains hopeful, carrying his young son, Toby, and a battered suitcase to the United States, where it has been arranged for him to work as a driver for the wealthy Duvall's.

Arthur's inner struggles are complicated by a recurring memory, an event he witnessed at the hands of the Nazi storm troopers, the brutal beating of a surgeon as bystanders watch, helpless to intervene. A lingering remnant of a disturbing past that tortures his mind, Arthur can never forget the nightmare of being Jewish in Hitler's Germany.

Scarred before he ever sets foot in his new country, Arthur is hopeful, living a precise and guarded life devoid of complications, his spirit humbled by the loss of joy. The years pass and Toby grows up in his father's shadow, witnesses to the excesses of the Duvall's, a prosperity they will never enjoy. Agatha, the Duvall's daughter, a year younger than Toby, is frequently left in Arthur's care when her mother is indisposed.

When a dismayed Arthur is ordered to deliver a pregnant Aggie to a home for unwed mothers, the humble Arthur is stunned by the Duvall's curt dismissal of their daughter; he makes it his personal mission to keep track of the baby, a boy, given up for adoption. Then he loses track of the adoptive family, thrown once more into despair, especially when Toby leaves home without a word. Years later, while driving through a familiar neighborhood, Arthur sees the child again, an experience that marks a new beginning, an opening of Arthur's long-stifled heart. Through the abiding friendship of Agatha, Arthur finds his way back to contentment.
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Format: Hardcover
I picked this book up at a book sale with no foreknowledge about it. I think I read some of the reviews here on Amazon before investing in the reading time, though, and it was a worthwhile read.

The author does an applaudable job of painting a picture of someone's life, and depicting a condition many (if not most) of us find ourselves in at some point in our lives. That is, we see Arthur trapped in his longings for something more, and yet at the same time confined by his unwillingness to jeopardize what he already has. It is sometimes painful to experience Arthur's world, as he is perenially enfeebled by his inability to demonstrate any courage. However, this character is not so rare amongst us, and as mentioned earlier, we've probably all got a little Arthur in us. It's insightful to see how this character flaw takes away any power we might have to take our lives in a direction we'd really like to go in. Carrie Brown also does a nice job in developing the characters of the people surrounding Arthur's life.

I especially compliment Ms. Brown's ability to describe that feeling Arthur often has, that feeling of longing. So many times she describes Arhurs longing - for his son, who grows up and beyond his reach, and for Aggie - a woman much his junior for which he harbors a futile romantic love. I admired Ms. Brown's work in being able to desribe that powerlessness that we've all felt when longing for something we simply can not have; something Arthur carries with him throughout his life.

The overleaf on my copy of the book seems to tie the book's title to Aggie's stay at Breakabeen. From my point of view, "Confinement" is more aptly tied to Arthur's own condition of being paralyzed by his own emotional condition.
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Format: Paperback
I bought this book on a whim and am so glad I did. I absolutely loved it. This was one of the most beautifully written books I have ever read.

Arthur Henning is a character that I think will stay with me for a long time. His loneliness is overwhelming. I believe his love for Aggie represents to him all that he once had before the war and her child represents all that he lost since.

I thought the way Brown kept going back to the Dr. Ornstein character was quite compelling. That was what seemed to be the single most life altering moment for Arthur. The loss of his wife and daughter, Toby leaving, his unrequited love for Aggie - these were almost inevitable for Arthur based on what happened to Dr. Ornstein. Brown's ability to go from the present to the past all in the same paragraph was excellent and did not detract from the story in any way. Her portrayal of the Duvall's and Mrs. MacCauley were excellent, although I would have liked to know more about what made the Duvall's the way they were. Still, this is a wonderful book that I highly recommend. I look forward to reading Ms. Browns other books.
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