From Publishers Weekly
Cantrell occupies herself with the classic trio of poetry, beauty and tragedy in this promising debut novel set in New York City. Morgan Clifford is a recently widowed editor at the venerable publishing house of Peabody & Simms. Years of watching glittering literary careers being created for mediocre writers by "the metallic maw of the publicity machine" have left her disillusioned and frustrated, but when the work of a mysterious and exceptional young poet, Constance Chamberlain, appears on her desk, it reignites her love for literature and life. Cantrell draws an entrancing character in Constance, who is at once fiercely talented, strikingly beautiful and appealingly old-fashioned. When she takes Morgan into her confidence to divulge a consuming love affair with a prominent (and married) businessman, her delicate reserve yields to reveal astute insight and unwavering passion. Constance's poems are interspersed throughout the narrative, as if to test Morgan's suggestion that Constance circumvent the publishing industry's reluctance to publish unknown poets by weaving her poetry into a novel. This approach is occasionally marred by the poetry itself; it is hard to remain convinced of Constance's extraordinary attributes when her work is so pedestrian. With Constance's untimely death, Morgan is forced to reexamine some of the myths that she built around the poet. It appears that Constance was both more tormented and less isolated than she seemed, which puts a refreshing spin on what threatened to be a predictable conclusion. Even the posthumous publication of her poems by Peabody & Simms is less triumphant than expected, as Morgan realizes that being elevated to the status of Emily Dickinson's editor "had not been the point at all." Cantrell writes with careful precision, and despite the flimsy poetry, Constance's story is subtle and touching.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
Morgan Clifford is an editor at Peabody & Simms, a prestigious publishing house that specializes in literary fiction. After reading the poetry of Constance Chamberlain, Morgan knew she found a special writer. Constance herself is an enigma--a beautiful young woman who is both innocent and guarded. She and Morgan share a deep respect for literature, but Morgan knows how difficult it is to publish poetry, and reluctantly encourages Constance to try to incorporate her poetry into a first novel. As Morgan gets to know Constance, Constance tells her about her love affair with Lou Ellis, the well-known CEO of an investment company. Lou is married, and though he appears to adore Constance, Morgan worries that his devotion to his family won't allow him to leave his wife. Ultimately, it takes a tragedy to bring Constance's poetry to the wide readership it merits. Both polished and thoughtful, Cantrell's elegant debut novel ponders the plights both of a writer and an editor in a world where art must compete with business sensibilities. Kristine Huntley
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