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Marion Hatley Paperback – April 20, 2017
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In this debut novel set in 1931, a corsetière fleeing scandal starts over in a small town, where she learns more about her past and herself.
When Marion Hatley, 33, gets a letter urging a visit to her Aunt Elsie, who is dying, the invitation is well-timed. She s just been let go from her seamstress job after a customer witnessed Marion embracing her sister s husband, Benton Granger. Thirty miles from Pittsburgh is little Cooper s Ford, where Marion hoping rumors haven t pursued her that far will serve as a temporary schoolteacher and care for her failing aunt in the evenings. Meanwhile, Marion can work on perfecting her mother Vera s vision of the ideal shaping garment, both flattering and comfortable: a corset that did not so much constrict the flesh as gently remind it to behave. Marion, a resourceful woman, soon settles into her new routine, becoming friendly with Elsie s excellent daytime caregiver and housekeeper, Ina Lisle, and with Elder Baines ( Elder being a first name, not signifying a church official), who was injured in World War I, still suffers from shell shock, and helps Walter, Ina s son, with his reading. After Marion has a breakthrough with her new shapewear design, dubbed the Whisper Lift, she begins selling her work in a local shop. Marion learns essential truths about her mother (now dead) from Elsie and becomes a force for good in the lives of several people. In her novel, Castrodale draws readers in with the fascinating details of inventing and constructing Marion s new foundation garment, a process that requires a union of engineering, creativity, and sympathy for the female body. Sympathy directed by action is a keynote of Marion s character, and plays out in the lives of several characters in significant ways. Though some elements, such as Marion s affair with Benton or lingerie s ooh-la-la associations, could be played for cheaper thrills, the book s style is serious-minded and thoughtful, even lyrical: Marion knew what it was to watch good work and be guided by it, even months and years later.
A reflective, compassionate, and gracefully written tale about a designer that effectively uses its historical setting.
Like Marion Hatley's own creations, Beth Castrodale's debut novel is sewn, sentence by elegant sentence, with exquisite care and beauty. With clear-eyed assurance it explores the burden of secrets, the virtue of perseverance, and the joys of renewal. As a portrait of a community and life itself it is deeply compassionate and utterly wondrous. --David Rowell, author of The Train of Small Mercies
Marion Hatley is a beautiful story, beautifully told. Marion has a secret shame for which she pays a price. But in the course of the book, she demonstrates her independence and secures her dignity, while helping others do the same. Her skills at inventing and creating women s underthings designed to free them from the constrictions of the past are emblematic of the freedom she ultimately achieves. --Lee Jacobus, author of Hawaiian Tales, Crown Island, and The Romantic Soul of Emma Now
Through her own trials and the trials of others she grows close to, Marion Hatley finds the heart within human frailty. A thoroughly rewarding read. --Gilmore Tamny, author ofMy Days with Millicent
Castrodale offers profound insights into the characters who populate a Depression-era town from women struggling for personal and financial independence to a soldier who has returned in body but not in spirit from World War I. --Grace Talusan, essayist and fiction writer
An evocative portrait of a woman both sinned against and sinning. Her struggles against societal judgments remain relevant today. --Paula Bomer, author of Inside Madeleine
Marion Hatley reminds us of women s struggles to escape society s corseting and pursue opportunities we take for granted today. --Nan Cuba, author of Body and Bread
Marion Hatley is as smooth to step into as the Whisper Lifts that Marion sews for her customers. The plot flows like silk, supporting her search for identity, honor, and love." --Audrey Schulman, author of The Cage, Swimming with Jonah, A House Named Brazil, and Three Weeks in December
An expert and articulate historical novel. The period details, class protest, and feminist protest are particularly engaging, as is the central character, Marion, whose resourcefulness recalls that of Zola's Denise Badu in The Ladies' Paradise. In Marion's case, her redesign of conventional corsets speaks to humanizing social constrictions for women as well as easing physical ones. --DeWitt Henry, founding editor of Ploughshares, Emerson Professor Emeritus and author of The Marriage of Anna Maye Potts
About the Author
BETH CASTRODALE has worked as a reporter and book editor. Marion Hatley was a finalist for the 2014 Nilsen Prize for a First Novel from Southeast Missouri State University Press. Beth's other novels include In This Ground, an excerpt of which was a shortlist finalist for a 2014 William Faulkner William Wisdom Creative Writing Award. Her stories have appeared in Printer's Devil Review, The Writing Disorder, and Marathon Literary Review. She also recommends literary fiction at SmallPressPicks.com. To learn more about Beth's work and sign up for her email newsletter, visit bethcastrodale.com.
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