I received this book free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Frances and Bernard by Carlene Bauer
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on February 5th 2013
Genres: Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Romance
A letter can spark a friendship.
A friendship can change your life.
In the summer of 1957, Frances and Bernard meet at an artists’ colony. She finds him faintly ridiculous, but talented. He sees her as aloof, but intriguing. Afterward, he writes her a letter. Soon they are immersed in the kind of fast, deep friendship that can take over—and change the course of—our lives.
From points afar, they find their way to New York and, for a few whirling years, each other. The city is a wonderland for young people with dreams: cramped West Village kitchens, rowdy cocktail parties stocked with the sharp-witted and glamorous, taxis that can take you anywhere at all, long talks along the Hudson River as the lights of the Empire State Building blink on above.
Inspired by the lives of Flannery O’Connor and Robert Lowell, Frances and Bernard imagines, through new characters with charms entirely their own, what else might have happened. It explores the limits of faith, passion, sanity, what it means to be a true friend, and the nature of acceptable sacrifice. In the grandness of the fall, can we love another person so completely that we lose ourselves? How much should we give up for those we love? How do we honor the gifts our loved ones bring and still keep true to our dreams?
In witness to all the wonder of kindred spirits and bittersweet romance, Frances and Bernard is a tribute to the power of friendship and the people who help us discover who we are.
An epistolary novel, or a novel written solely in personal letters mainly between main characters Frances and Bernard. The novel is said to of been influenced by the lives of Flannery O’Connor and Robert Lowell, however, Frances and Bernard are far from a carbon copy. In an author interview with Publisher’s Weekly, Carlene stated, “I didn’t want to write historical fiction, but I want readers to know that it was the temperaments, minds, and voices of these specific people that set me off.”
The beautiful writing was the only redeeming quality of this book for me, and it was quite beautiful. The story was heavily steeped in religious fervor. I found both Frances and Bernard to be quite a bore and their fanatical beliefs and constant discussion of them was really quite tiresome. As much personal details which are given in their letters there still managed to be a lack of connection between the reader and the characters themselves. I would naturally blame the style of writing, however, I was quite fond of the letters back and forth to one another. Reading a certain bit of the authors flawless prose was like a beacon of light, I only wish the entire novel shone more brightly as a whole.