Book Reviews

Wise Blood by Flannery O’Connor (1952)

Wise Blood by Flannery O’Connor, first published in 1952, was this author’s first novel. Followed by The Violent Bear it Away, a novel, and A Good Man is Hard to Find, a collection of short stories, it was reissued in a new hardcover in 1962 as a nod how much O’Connor’s audience had grown in the intervening years.

O’Connor was best known for fiction (primarily short stories) in the form of morally driven narratives populated with flawed characters sometimes described as grotesque. As she herself reminded readers in her essay “The Teaching of Literature”:

“The freak in modern fiction is usually disturbing to us because he keeps us from forgetting that we share in his state. The only time he should be disturbing to us is when he is held up as a whole man.” Read More→

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Miles Franklin: “Brent of Bin Bin,” My Career Goes Bung, and More

Miles Franklin (1879 – 1954) is best known for her first novel, My Brilliant Career. Published in 1901, when the author was just 21, it’s a semi-autobiographical story of a teenage girl growing up in the Australian bush who longs to break free as her own person. Just after the novel’s publication and early success she wrote only sporadically, having become involved in World War I efforts and the woman suffrage cause.

During this period, she wrote a sequel to My Brilliant Career titled My Career Goes Bung, finishing it around 1915 –1916. But it proved too far ahead of its time and wasn’t published until some decades later. Read More→

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Charlotte Temple by Susanna Rowson (1790)

Charlotte Temple by Susanna Rowson (1762 – 1824, sometimes known as Susanna Haswell Rowson) was the best-known work by this American-British author. It was also America’s first best-selling novel. First published in England in 1790 as Charlotte: a Tale of Truth, it was retitled Charlotte Temple in 1797. With its classic theme of seduction and remorse, it sparked a great deal of controversy in its time. Yet it remained the most widely read novels of the first half of the nineteenth century.

Other than Charlotte Temple, Susanna Rowson’s prolific body of writings (which also included other novels as well as plays, poems, and school textbooks) has been largely forgotten. Though contemporary readers give this novel mixed reviews, judging from comments on Goodreads, Charlotte Temple has endured as an example of early American literature. Read More→

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To Be Young, Gifted and Black by Lorraine Hansberry (1969)

To Be Young, Gifted and Black: Lorraine Hansberry in her Own Words is a 1969 collection of autobiographical writings by the playwright and author best known for A Raisin in the Sun. It was the first play to be written by an African-American woman to be staged on Broadway.

Lorraine Hansberry‘s ex-husband and friend, the songwriter and poet Robert Nemiroff, became her literary executor after her death in 1965. He gathered her unpublished writings and first adapted them into a stage play of the same name, which ran off Broadway from 1968 to 1969. The acclaimed play was one of the most successful of that season. It continues to be performed around the world. Read More→

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A Country Doctor by Sarah Orne Jewett (1884)

A Country Doctor by Sarah Orne Jewett is an 1884 novel by this American author noted for regional fiction set in Maine. Nan, the main character, is a young woman wants to become a doctor, something that was quite out of the ordinary at the time this novel was published.

The story follows a central character in a narrative, unlike the linked sketches in her best-known book, The Country of the Pointed Firs. But like those linked stories, it’s more episodic than plot-driven.

Jewett was inspired by her own father, who was indeed a country doctor. In her formative years, she learned about human nature by accompanying her father as he did his calls to neighboring farms and villages in South Berwick, Maine. The following review came out as the book was published in 1884, and gives a contemporaneous view of the story about a woman with the ambition to become a doctor:  Read More→

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