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A Severed Wasp: A Novel Paperback – November 1, 1983

4.3 out of 5 stars 38 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“I don't know another current American writer who could weave the worlds of music and the international concert stage, the claustrophobic life of a great cathedral close, and aspects of the often threatening street life of New York as Miss L'Engle does.” ―Edmund Fuller, The Wall Street Journal

“Hours of wonderful, suspenseful, provocative, soul-satisfying entertainment.” ―Norman Lear

About the Author

Madeleine L'Engle's many books include A Wrinkle in Time, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, and Certain Women. She lives in New York City, where she is writer-in-residence at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 388 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (November 1, 1983)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374517835
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374517830
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #504,853 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
A Severed Wasp is an example of Madeline L'Engle's fictional writing at it's best. This novel continues the story of Katherine Vigneras (previously Forrester) from the book's prequel A Small Rain as Katherine returns to New York for retirement and to come to terms with her past. Madeline L'Engle does an excellent job of describing the life of a pianist, and in such a way that the reader will feel both appreciation and compassion for the main character. She also does a wonderful job of making the reader understand that all things, no matter how painful they may be at the time, play an important role in one's life and happen for a reason. The amount of love that Ms. L'Engle has for her character is easily noticable and the feeling is easily transferred to the reader. Ms. L'Engle has carefully woven bits of information about characters from some of her previous works and what they have grown up to be. She makes references to Phillipa Hunter (And Both Were Young), Emily Gregory (The Young Unicorns), Suzy Austin (all of the Austin-family books), and Josiah (Dave) Davidson (The Young Unicorns). This book has definitely added to my thought that Madeline L'Engle books are like old friends and can be picked up and read over and over again without getting tired of them.
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Format: Paperback
When I saw "The Small Rain" in the bookstore a while back, I was so excited to see that Madeleine L'Engle has written adult novels. I instantly purchased it and truly enjoyed it. Then I bought this one, and I cannot tell you how MUCH I loved this novel. From start to finish it held my attention. The reader learns of Katherine's past in bits and pieces throughout the book - through her dreams, thoughts, and conversations. L'Engle skillfully takes us from the past to the present in an incredibly smooth way. It's a treat - you never know where you will be next. Will it be a past heartache, a present dilemma, a future concert? Who is after her now, and does the current mystery have something to do with the past that haunts her?

So many interesting issues are packed into this novel, and so much suspense too! When I was young, I was filled with wonder when I read L'Engle's "Wrinkle in Time." In a similar way, this book filled me with wonder about the nature of life - it's drastic ups and downs. It teaches just what a person can endure and what a person can accomplish despite tragedy and loss. There is hope in Katherine, and that hope is even more powerful when the reader discovers what has happened to her since she was young in "The Small Rain." And as a young adult, this novel actually made me thing of my older years in a whole new way. They will be a time of rest, reflection, hope, and warm bubble baths. I look forward to getting to the point where I have lived a complete life, yet still have some living left to do. I had never thought this way before.

I give this novel my highest recommendation. I couldn't stop reading but didn't want the story to end. The book was a friend at my bedside table, one that I curled up with while sipping herbal tea. It just doesn't get better than this.
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By A Customer on September 20, 1999
Format: Paperback
There are several levels upon which this book appeals to me. The first is the most obvious: Katherine the musician. Madeleine L'Engle captures the heart and soul of the Artist so well, that, while I am reading this book, I can feel, for that fleeting moment, what it is like. Then there is the other thing that she does so well: tie the storyline with threads from previous books. Like the first reviewer, I too was very surprised to find Suzy and Dave married (though there's a subtle hint if you read _Young Unicorns_ carefully). (Note: if you read _Ring of Endless Light_ carefully, Katherine makes a cameo appearance.) And then there's the message -- accepting your past, the decisions you've made, as well as those made for you; taking the pain and just... letting it go (moving through it to get to the other side).
I could go on and on... I re-read this book a lot, and each time (as with the best of the L'Engle books), I learn something new.
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Format: Paperback
Like other reviewers, I was a "Wrinkle in Time" fan who ran across the "adult" books and the bookstore and thought I would return to her writing. I read "A Small Rain" few months ago, which I mostly enjoyed. What was striking to me was how the characters lingered with me, sneaking into my thoughts even months later. So when I saw this return to the same characters, I was happy to pick up "A Severed Wasp."

But I didn't really enjoy the book. It succeeds as a story - a good pace, and very readable. But the magic of the characters disappears in this follow-up. I found the main character Katherine to be annoying, a dislikable person who is constantly described lovingly. L'Engle constantly flatters this character as so talented, amazing, and eminently respected by all. But she is clearly a judgmental person, stubborn, self-centered, and obnoxious. In "A Small Rain", interactions between Katherine and other characters reveal how her stubbornness might be a strength and a weakness. Here, Katherine remains an imperfect person but the reader sees her only through the author's rose colored glasses. It becomes tiresome very quickly.

The lack of character richness extend to the minor players as well - it is only in the last few pages that L'Engle attempts to bring any motives to characters beyond the lead, which makes the ending seem forced and implausible. Even the character of Mimi who is so prominent throughout the book lacks independent qualities or motives, and is essentially dismissed before the end of the novel.

I suppose I did enjoy the puzzle of the portrait of Katherine - given her self-absorbed, arrogant nature, why do the other characters flock around her? But in the end, the characters just do not work for me.
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