Literary Analyses

The Daring Fiction of Maude Hutchins

Maude Phelps McVeigh Hutchins (1899 –1991) was raised in an upper-class environment, born to wealthy parents in New York City. She was orphaned at a young age and brought up by her grandparents, prominent members Long Island society.

This introduction to Maude Hutchins’ creative life, first in the visual arts and then more predominantly as the author of fiction considered daring even by mid-twentieth-century standards, is excerpted from Girls in Bloom: Coming of Age in the Mid-20th Century Woman’s Novel  by Francis Booth, reprinted by permission.

A 1935 article about Hutchins (in her then role as a sculptor in Chicago) makes it clear just how aristocratic her family was. “Mrs. Hutchins’ mother was a Phelps, of a New England family that made their advent in Massachusetts in 1632. It was her Phelps grandparents who brought her up after her parents died.” Read More→


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Jewish Women in Novels by Early Jewish Female Writers

Depictions of Jewish women in fiction or memoir by Jewish female writers prior in the 19th century and the first decades of the 20th were exceedingly rare, whether in English or translation. That makes the works discussed ahead rare gems, even if they weren’t brilliant by the highest of  literary standards. All are eminently readable, however, and completely fascinating.

Working back from Vera Caspary’s Thicker Than Water (1932) to Amy Levy’s controversial Reuben Sachs (1888), these often autobiographical  novels (as well as one memoir) offer gritty, realistic portraits of Jewish family and romantic life of their times.

Excerpted from the forthcoming book A Girl Named Vera Can Never Tell a Lie: The Novels of Vera Caspary by Francis Booth, reprinted with permission. Read More→


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Her First Time: Seduction and Loss of Innocence in 1920s Women’s Novels

How was seduction, loss of virginity, unplanned pregnancy, unbidden passion, and occasional betrayal portrayed in English and American novels of nearly one hundred years ago? This sampling of seduction and loss of innocence in 1920s women’s novels — by women authors — is fascinating and illuminating.

Here we’ll explore works by Vera Caspary, Viña Delmar, Ellen Glasgow, Edna Ferber, and E. Arnot Robinson, and Rosamond Lehmann. Excerpted from the forthcoming A Girl Named Vera can Never Tell a Lie: The Novels of Vera Caspary by Francis Booth. Reprinted with permission. Read More→


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Vera Caspary’s The White Girl and Other “Passing” Novels of the 1920s

The White Girl by Vera Caspary (1929) bears comparison to several other novels about the subject of “passing,” released around the same time. Passing as white was a theme that fascinated authors of the 1920s, both within and outside of the Harlem Renaissance movement.

Following is an exploration of several 1920s novels of passing by Caspary and two by Jewish women writers like herself, as well as the renowned works of two Black authors of that era, Nella Larsen and Jessie Redmon Fauset.

Excerpted from the forthcoming book A Girl Named Vera Can Never Tell a Lie: The Novels of Vera Caspary by Francis Booth, reprinted with permission. Read More→


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The Ultimate Caspary Woman: Laura by Vera Caspary

Laura, a detective novel/murder mystery published in 1943, has remained Vera Caspary’s best-known work, partially thanks to the well-regarded film adaptation that followed. The slim yet action-packed story was first serialized in Collier’s magazine in 1942 as Ring Twice for Laura

In the excellent afterword for the 2005 Feminist Press edition of this book, A.B. Emrys writes: 

“Caspary’s fairy tale for working women takes place in a world of men who use women for advancement and self-reflection. The potential darkness of this world places Laura into the noir category and shadows even Caspary’s non-crime fiction … ‘Who can you trust’ was a game working women had to play frequently, and Laura makes evident that women might be labeled femmes fatales because they worked in the male-dominated business world.” Read More→


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