Francis Booth

An Episode of Sparrows by Rumer Godden (1956)

This analysis of Rumer Godden’s 1956 novel, An Episode of Sparrows, features its tenacious young heroine, Lovejoy Mason. Excerpted from Girls in Bloom: Coming of Age in the Mid-20th Century Woman’s Novel  by Francis Booth, reprinted by permission.

Growing up in the colonial era, like the family in Rebecca West’s The Fountain Overflows are the sisters Bea and Harriet in The River, 1946, set in what was then Bengal by Rumer Godden (1907–1998), who herself grew up partly in India. Like many of the girls in these semi-autobiographical novels, Harriet wants to be a writer when she grows up. Read More→


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Ántonia Shimerda: Singular Heroine of Willa Cather’s My Ántonia

This character analysis of Ántonia Shimerda, the heroine of My Ántonia by Willa Cather (1873-1947) is excerpted from Girls in Bloom: Coming of Age in the Mid-20th Century Woman’s Novel  by Francis Booth, reprinted by permission.

My Ántonia (1918) is the third of Willa Cather’s Midwestern pioneer novels (often referred to as the Prairie Trilogy) of early twentieth century frontier life which, despite their brevity, manage to encompass the epic sweep of the pioneering move to the West, seeming to hark back to an earlier era of rugged individualism.

Despite the title, Ántonia (the Shimerda family have come from Bohemia; all Czech names have the stress on the first syllable, hence the accent over the Á) is not the narrator nor even the central character; she is always slightly off to one side and a little out of focus. Read More→


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Miranda Gay: Coming of Age in Pale Horse, Pale Rider

This introduction to Miranda Gay, a central character in of two of the three stories in Pale Horse, Pale Rider by Katherine Anne Porter (1939), is excerpted from Girls in Bloom: Coming of Age in the Mid-20th Century Woman’s Novel  by Francis Booth, reprinted by permission.

Katherine Anne Porter (1890-1980) is best known for her only novel, Ship of Fools, which she began writing in 1931 but only published in 1962. In addition to this magnum opus, she published only short stories, fewer than thirty, but which earned her a reputation as one of the twentieth century’s greatest stylists of short fiction.

Porter had a fascinating life: having been born in Texas, she married three husbands of various nationalities and lived in several countries, including Mexico, where many of her stories are set, and Bermuda where she began her stories about Miranda Gay, who is usually considered to be her alter ego and spokeswoman. Read More→


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Caresse Crosby, Patron of the Literary Lost Generation

Caresse Crosby (born Mary Phelps Jacob; April 20, 1892 – January 24, 1970) was known as a patron to the Lost Generation and other expatriate writers in Paris of the late 1920s. With her second husband, Harry Crosby, she founded Black Sun Press, publishing early works of writers who would have a lasting impact.

And in an offbeat yet impactful turn of events, in 1914, Crosby became the first person to receive a patent for the modern bra in 1914. The following appreciation of Crosby’s Paris years is excerpted from Everybody I Can Think of Ever: Meetings That Made the Avant-Garde by Francis Booth, reprinted by permission. Read More→


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Voyage in the Dark by Jean Rhys (1934)

This review and analysis of Voyage in the Dark, a 1934 novel by Jean Rhys, is excerpted from Girls in Bloom: Coming of Age in the Mid-20th Century Woman’s Novel  by Francis Booth, reprinted by permission.

Jean Rhys (1890-1979) is best known for her novel Wide Sargasso Sea, a take on the Jane Eyre story from the point of view of the “madwoman in the attic,” Rochester’s wife, who, like Rhys, came from the Caribbean. It was finally published in book form in 1966 after years of tinkering and after a very long gap following her early novels, the first of which, Quartet, was published in 1928. Read More→


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