- Hardcover: 416 pages
- Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (February 29, 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0393245098
- ISBN-13: 978-0393245097
- Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.4 x 9.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 11 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,037,314 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Constance Fenimore Woolson: Portrait of a Lady Novelist Hardcover – February 29, 2016
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“[It’s] galling that most who remember [Woolson] today do so in connection with Henry James, who occupied murky territory somewhere between frenemy and soulmate. It’s the James legacy that Anne Boyd Rioux wrestles with most in her excellent biography. . . . [Her] complex account leaves readers with an impression of Woolson’s yearning ambition and uncertain triumph.”
- Chicago Tribune, "Best Books of 2016"
“Refreshing . . . [T]his gentle portrait of a woman who struggled to be true to herself as an artist adds much-needed nuance to American cultural and social history.”
- Wendy Smith, Boston Globe
“A remarkable picture of a bold, bright woman who paved the way for writers such as Edith Wharton, E. M. Forster, and Willa Cather, and who arguably might be hailed in the same breath as Henry James and George Eliot. . . . Rioux’s biography puts the woman herself back in the center of the frame and celebrates the fact that a 19th-century female writer could choose not to marry or have children, but instead to support herself by her pen.”
- Rebecca Foster, Los Angeles Review of Books
“A duet [between Rioux and Woolson] that is clear and strong and exciting. . . . [Woolson] creat[ed] a still relevant and exciting body of work that Rioux guides readers to.”
- Susan Larson, New Orleans Advocate
“[Rioux] has done a substantial service to American literature with . . . a scholarly resuscitation of a writer whose literary life was caught in a gender bind, aiming ambitiously to give us a new appreciation of her life and work.”
- David Holmberg, Bookslut.com
“A vivid, deeply involving biography. . . . Rioux writes with captivating lucidity and conviction . . . [and] offers smart and poignant insights into why Woolson was forgotten and why her unapologetically sincere and passionate novels and stories fell so swiftly out of favor.”
- Booklist, starred review
“An important contribution to reestablishing this long-overlooked writer to her rightful place in the American literary canon, this excellent book will captivate readers.”
- Library Journal, starred review
“A fine and detailed study . . . Rioux makes a strong case for reassessing this contemporary and close friend of Henry James.”
- Karen Shook, Times Higher Education (UK)
About the Author
Anne Boyd Rioux is a professor of English at the University of New Orleans and president of the Woolson Society. A recipient of two NEH fellowships, she is the author of Wielding the Pen and Writing for Immortality.
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Top customer reviews
My verdict is certain. As historians -- academic, literary or amateur. We should write with an eye to guiding future researchers and writers. Ms. Rioux has managed a "job of work" that reads like a novel. A proud achievement. I hope it leads to a fuller appreciation of Constance, a most gifted writer who should share or surpass the enduring fame and readership of her male peers.
Because of her biographer Anne Boyd Rioux's passion for her subject, I became fascinated with Woolson all over again; but this time the fascination stuck. Not having read any of Woolson's works, I decided to read this in tandem with the collection "Miss Grief and Other Stories", stopping in the biography to read the mentioned short story in the collection before picking up the biographical thread again. Though Woolson was prolific (and in demand) in other genres too--travel writing, memoirs, novels--this approach worked extremely well for me, giving me a flavor for her writing while reading of her life, which in turn gave me a desire to read even more of her works.
The research put into this biography is obvious, though it never bogs down its story. Near the end, I felt as if I was slowing down only because I hated to see Woolson's life end: I felt that invested in her. The look of the book is pleasing as well. I was surprised, and happy, to see that the illustrations (mostly photographs) are placed at appropriate junctures in the text and are not all clumped together in the middle, as is commonly found in other nonfiction works.
And that Henry James connection? I'd rather you read of Woolson's life as a whole and not focus on that one aspect. But, since I'm the one who mentioned it, I will say that their close friendship is both more and less than you might think. He was hardly the sole important thing in her life, as those who've come before this biographer have intimated; but he was as important to her as she was to him. There are ways to love that don't fit into neat little boxes, just as Woolson herself and her writings as a whole can't be contained inside any one label.
I commend Rioux for resurrecting this forgotten author--Woolson is worthy of consideration and I look forward to reading "Miss Grief and Other Stories" -- a collection of Woolson's stories. Beyond the obvious recommendation to read about this bold and interesting woman and writer I would highly recommend this book to other women writers who are looking for a literary friend--someone to inspire and guide them as they navigate the tricky life of writing.