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Frances and Bernard Hardcover – February 5, 2013
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Top Customer Reviews
Bernard is not a monster; he only believes himself to be. In Carlene Bauer's epistolary novel, he and Frances begin a long-term correspondence after meeting at a writer's colony in the late 1950's. The book consists primarily of their letters, and occasional letters to and from Claire (Frances' friend), and Ted (Bernard's ex-roommate), who serve primarily as confidantes.
Bernard is a poet; Frances is a fiction writer. Initially, he lives in Boston, she in New York. But as their correspondence deepens and their feelings for each other heat up, he moves to New York, and they begin to redefine their friendship. In the process, they explore that amorphous boundary between friendship and love, coming face to face with who they really are and the choices they need to make in order to be true to themselves.
Frances is controlled, self-contained, aloof, and cautious. In college she had been referred to as "Fanny Price" - after Jane Austen's prim MANSFIELD PARK heroine. Frances is traditional in her Catholic religiosity, but untraditional in her dedication to writing during a decade in which female aspiration centered entirely on marriage.
Bernard said of her in a letter, "She grew up among women who love harder than they think, and she has strengthened her innate intractability in order to keep tunneling toward a place where she could write undisturbed by the demands of conventional femininity. So she may always think harder than she loves."
Bernard, in contrast, is emotionally effusive, brimming with puppy-doglike affection, and manic-depressive - a rare 1950's rebellious radical.Read more ›
So this turned out to be a warning against drawing pat conclusions about a book based on its form or ostensible subject.
That said, this will definitely not be a book that suits all readers. It is made up of letters, and if you can't deal with that, well, this isn't something you should spend your time on. It's also a book revolving around two characters, both of whom are writers, and they spend a lot of time talking about Big Ideas and discussing other things that writers tend to debate, like annoying editors and the difficulty in getting the ideas in one's brain onto the page in the right way. If that sounds pretentious to you, again, this won't be the right book for you. The first half of the book includes many segments of letters in which the duo (Frances, born Catholic, and Bernard, a convert) discuss theology and the nature of the divine. To me, that fit with the characters and the narrative; others may not respond the same way.
So, why did I end up loving this book?Read more ›
That is what reading this book feels like. You feel privileged to read over the shoulders of Frances and Bernard as they exchange thoughts in writing about light and deep subjects. Frances and Bernard meet at a writer's colony in the summer of 1957. They recognize a kindred spirit in each other.
Frances describes Bernard to a friend:
"There was one young man who did bear scrutiny. Bernard Eliot. Harvard. Descended from Puritans, he claims. Another poet. But very good. Well, I guess I should say more than very good. Great? ....I hear John Donne in the poems--John Donne prowling around in the boiler room of them, shouting, clanging on pipes with wrenches, trying to get this young man to uncram the lines and cut the poems in half. We had a nice lunch one day....He said an astounding thing at lunch. He asked me if I had a suitor--his word--and I said no. I was pretty sure this was just to start conversation. Then, after a pause, while I was shaking some ketchup out over my french fries, he said, chin in hand, as if he were speaking to me from within some dream he was having, "I think men have a tendency to wreck beautiful things." I wanted to laugh.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Very interesting story! Some parts were hard for me, but overall this is a great read. The author is amazing! I love the style!Published 14 months ago by Cheri
It was a pleasure to know these characters through their letters: to have the voice of the narration be a voice that they chose, with careful words, for another person. Read morePublished 15 months ago by Emma Borges-Scott
I suppose Ted and Sylvia are the template, only without their genius. A stab at fifties sophistication, this excruciating almost-parody has to be read to be believed. Read morePublished 16 months ago by Simon Barrett 'Il Penseroso'
This is the story of two young people in 1957 who find themselves meeting at an artist's colony that summer. Soon after a friendship begins through correspondence. Read morePublished 19 months ago by Sportzchck "Liz"
This book is about two famous people who had a relationship which is not clearing developed in the story by Carlene Bauer. Read morePublished on May 26, 2014 by P. Connor
Exciting and well written. On the contrary I found it a bit too religious. I like how it surprised me and wasn't mushy gushy happily ever after as much as I long for it. Read morePublished on March 24, 2014 by Taylor
I recall while studying for the M.A. having had to read “Pamela: Or Virtue Rewarded” by Samuel Richardson, apparently the first of its kind, an epistolary novel. Read morePublished on February 27, 2014 by Eric Selby