WITHOUT HER: A HAUNTING NOVEL OF JEALOUSY AND FRIENDSHIP SET IN PARIS AND THE SOUTH OF FRANCE:
When her old friend Hannah doesn’t show up at her family house in the south of France, everyone assumes that Claudia, who has known Hannah since their shared years at boarding school and Cambridge University, will know where she is and what has happened.
But as Claudia travels from the US to France to help Hannah’s husband and children conduct their search, she is forced to deal with her old jealousy of Hannah as well as her own relationship in the present with Alexandre, her French lover of many years. As events unfold, Claudia begins to wonder if Hannah and Alexandre have had an affair and if that has something to do with Hannah’s mysterious disappearance.
In this exquisitely-written, progressive and deeply thoughtful novel, Brackenbury asks the bewildering question: if Hannah does not return, what will the lives of her friends and family be, without her?
Without Her from Publisher’s Weekly
Rosalind Brackenbury. Delphinium, $25.95 (288p) ISBN 978-1-88328579-1
This standout novel of a tested friendship from Brackenbury (Becoming George Sand) is highlighted by fine prose and finely drawn characters. Claudia Prescott, a worldly Brit in her 60s, thinks back on her lifelong friendship with the free-spirited Hannah Farrell. Claudia, who has become a professor of filmmaking in Virginia, is scheduled to visit Hannah and her husband, Philip, in France, where the couple has a second home. When Philip contacts Claudia before her departure and tells her Hannah has disappeared, Claudia finishes her semester early to help and console Philip, but she stops briefly in Paris to see an old lover, Alexandre. Claudia and Hannah met Alexandre when they were students in the 1960s, and although it was Claudia who engaged in a decades-long affair with him, she has suspected that Hannah had at least one dalliance with him. Hannah, who had married young, has adult children who join the search with Claudia and Philip, but as Claudia combs her mind for clues as to where and why Hannah might have gone, she continually returns to her friend’s youthful unreliability—something she doesn’t seem to have continued with her husband. Brackenbury reaches into the heart of a long, complicated friendship, and the result is a skilled combination of a missing-person mystery and a sentimental reminiscence. (July
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Poetry. Of Rosalind Brackenbury's last collection, Jane Hirshfield said, "With deft mastery, Rosalind Brackenbury distills the facts and feel of a deeply lived-through and profoundly attended-to existence," and Harvey Shapiro said, "A palpable pleasure on the tongue.
Who are my friends? I ask, or wonder,
stepping into that playground without family,
cat or dog; no brothers here, no neighbors;
girls in check dresses, blue and white—
they stare, I stare. My mother said,
you will make friends here; but who
are my friends, and who my enemies?
Behind the apple tree, I tie my invisible horse
to a branch and go forth into friend-land.
Some girls flick their hair and sneer. Others
look scared. They have white socks,
they have sashes. They ask, who are you?
My name isn’t enough.
One pokes me in my gingham chest,
another says, don’t you know, we’re not allowed
on the grass behind the tree, what were you doing
there? Tying up my horse, I say.
Your horse? What is its name?
She’s dark, about my size, I saw her crying
when her mother left. I saw her stuff
her pocket with her hanky soaked with tears.
Silver King, I tell her. What’s yours?
We canter off into friendship. Others follow.
It’s like this with horses, you have one
then you have a herd, and their neighing
and tossing, their galloping, their flying manes
turn playground to open prairie,
everyone to rider, foe to friend.
from Rosalind Brackenbury's Invisible Horses
Novelist and poet, and former Key West poet laureate Brackenbury is astounding and graceful in this new collection. Her poems are testaments of wonder and recognition. In “The Taste of This World,” a poem in three delicious sections, the first, “Peach,” ends with “even before I brew my coffee, / and here I sit alone / riotous with gratitude.” The poet’s appreciation of the human experience resonates in her concise language and clear delivery; she is often poignant, and at times funny, as in “The Poet’s Holiday,” in which she recounts an experience most writers would recognize: “Now, she’d rather pour wine / at lunchtime, pick up a book—/someone else’s—eat cheese.” Brackenbury’s narrative virtuosity shimmers throughout. “The Cost,” a graceful poem about having lunch with a daughter, ends with: “I watched her decades ago / suck from bottles, milk going down / to clothe her tiny bones in flesh / enough to last.” She reflects on her own physical reality, and recognizes her own mortality in “Bodywork”: “We can shatter, I learn, and then be mended. We come back.” Admirers of poised poetry will come back again and again to this luminous collection.
The Lost Love Letters of Henri Fournier
What do you do when you've lost the love of your life?
Seb Fowler has arrived in Paris to research his literary idol, Henri Fournier. It begins with an interview granted by a woman whose affair with the celebrated writer trails back to World War I. The enchanting Pauline is fragile, but her memories are alive--those of an illicit passion, of the chances she took and never regretted, and of the twists of fate that defined her unforgettable love story.
Through Pauline's love letters, her secrets, and a lost Fournier manuscript, Seb will come to learn so much more--about Pauline, Henri, and himself. For Seb, every moment of Pauline's past proves to be more inspiring than he could have imagined. She's given him the courage to grab hold of whatever life offers, to cherish each risk, and to pursue love in his life.
Intimately epic, The Lost Love Letters of Henri Fournier spans generations to explore every beautiful mystery of falling in love, being in love, and losing a love--and, most important, daring to love again and discovering just how resilient the human heart can be.
Miss Stephen's Apprenticeship: How Virginia Stephen Became Virginia Woolf
During the years leading up to her marriage with Leonard Woolf in 1912, the year in which she finished The Voyage Out and sent it to be published by her cousin at Duckworth’s, the future Virginia Woolf was teaching herself how to be a writer. While her brothers were sent first to private schools, then to Cambridge to be educated, Virginia Stephen and her sister Vanessa were informally educated at home. With this background, how did she know she was a writer? What were her struggles? How did she teach herself? What made Miss Stephen into the author Virginia Woolf?
Miss Stephen’s Apprenticeship explores these questions, delving into Virginia Woolf ’s letters and diaries, seeking to understand how she covered the distance from the wistful “I only wish I could write,” to the almost casual statement, “the novels are finished.” These days, the trajectory of a writer very often starts with studying for an MFA. In Woolf ’s case, however, it’s instructive to ask: How did a great writer, who had no formal education, invent for herself the framework she needed for a writing life? How did she know what she had to learn? How did she make her own way?
Novelist Rosalind Brackenbury explores these questions and others, and in the process reveals what Virginia Woolf can give to young writers today.
“With uncommon grace and wit, Rosalind Brackenbury investigates Virginia Woolf’s journey from Victorian daughter to great writer. It takes a writer to truly see another writer’s awakening, and Brackenbury’s gifts as a novelist and poet inform this telling of ‘what happens inside the head and body of a writer’—that irreducible alchemy. A necessary book.”—Nancy Schoenberger, author, Dangerous Muse: The Life of Lady Caroline Blackwood
“The book is as timely as it is compelling since it illuminates the perennial question: Can one learn to become a genius? While Brackenbury is too honest to answer this (unanswerable) inquiry definitively, her attempts are supple, fecund, engrossing. That her voice is a charming mix of casual intelligence, erudition, and striking lyricism makes her musings all the more captivating. With clarity, brevity, insight, and wit, the text describes the challenges and rewards of the writing life as well as offers bracing advice for writers, ranging from ‘read avidly’ to ‘pay attention’ to ‘set a routine’ to ‘push to emotional extremes.’” —Eric G. Wilson, author, My Business Is to Create
Paris Still Life
After the death of her art dealer father, forty-year-old Gaby Greenwood's unmoored grief drives her to Paris alone, leaving her American husband behind. Where better for an existential crisis than the city so many artists have loved?
Walking through the streets, she sees a man with white hair and a worn corduroy jacket--a dead ringer for her late father. A ghost? Or has mourning driven her mad? Then she receives a letter from a woman she never knew existed--her father's lover of three decades. The mysterious Francoise has been entrusted with her father's last gift to Gaby, a valuable seventeenth-century still life. The woman is also the bearer of so many of her father's secrets.
But when Gaby takes a French lover, she starts to question everything she ever knew about her father and her own double life: America or Paris, husband or lover, old life or a new, reimagined one?
The Third Swimmer
This is the story of a marriage between two Britons, Olivia and Thomas. The first part of the novel takes place in London, on the brink of war, bracing for invasion. It ends with a bomb that would have killed Olivia, had Olivia not been spending the night with her married lover, Felix. Part Two opens in 1952, after the war, but with the effects of the war still haunting the survivors as well as the landscape. Thomas and Olivia, now married with children, have traveled to the south coast of France, to have what might be their delayed honeymoon. But their marriage has cooled down almost to the point of dying out. The central event of the novel is an attempt by Thomas to rescue a stranger seen drowning out at sea.The couple's future will depend on the outcome of this impetuous act of bravery.
Becoming George Sand
Maria Jameson is having an affair—a passionate, lifechanging affair. She asks: Is it possible to love two men at once? Must this new romance mean an end to love with her husband?
For answers, she reaches across the centuries to George Sand, the maverick French novelist who took many lovers. Immersing herself in the life of this revolutionary woman, Maria struggles with the choices women make and wonders if women in the nineteenth century might have been more free, in some ways, than their twenty-first-century counterparts.
Here, Rosalind Brackenbury creates a beautiful portrait of the ways in which women are connected across history. Two narratives delicately intertwine—following George through her affair with Frederic Chopin, following Maria through her affair with an Irish professor—and bring us a novel that explores the personal and the historical, the demands of self and the mysteries of the heart. Sharply insightful, Becoming George Sand asks how we make our lives feel vibrant while still acknowledging the gifts of our pasts, and challenges our understanding of love in all its forms—sparkling and new, mature, rekindled, and renewed.
"Read Becoming George Sand for the beauty of the prose, for the intertwined and compelling stories of two brave and piercingly alive women. Read it most of all, though, for its honesty, the way it reveals and illuminates certain truths and longings that are often believed to be secreted inside only one individual, but are in fact universal. This is not so much a story about having a love affair as it is a study of the nature of love itself. I was absolutely knocked out by it." —Elizabeth Berg, author of the forthcoming Once Upon a Time, There Was You, as well as Open House, What We Keep, The Year of Pleasures, Talk Before Sleep, and many others
"I enjoyed Becoming George Sand very much. It is thoughtful, lyrical and adventurous, and I liked the contrasts between glowing Majorca and cold Edinburgh, between past and present, all beautifully orchestrated. George Sand comes across to us as a real woman as well as an important writer, and an inspiring example of generosity and energy." —Margaret Drabble
"This is a beautiful, wise novel. The intertwining of past and present, of France and Scotland, of genius and analysis is done with an ease that disguises the consummate skill of the writing. A lovely book." — Edmund White, author of The Flaneur and City Boy
"An elegant novel which offers sensitive and witty reflections upon an astonishingly wide range of topics, Becoming George Sand is a great read and its characters—the struggling writer Maria Jameson and the indefatigable George Sand—are enchanting company." —Valerie Martin, author of Property
"A wonderful book—filled with wisdom, poetry, and imagery so brilliant I wish I could steal it. Maria is a character to love, whose loves are vivid, embracing, and revelatory. This is a treasure!" —Annie Dillard
"Written with brilliant assurance and a rich, stirring voice, Becoming George Sand is a masterful tale that travels the world in pursuit of its extraordinary characters and takes readers on a journey filled with wisdom and an unforgettable sense of joy and inspiration." —Diana Abu-Jaber, author of Crescent and The Language of Baklava
"Brackenbury’s fine new novel makes the worlds of present-day Edinburgh and nineteenth-century France both wonderfully real and full of moving emotional drama." —Alison Lurie, author of Foreign Affairs
"Here is a delicious and devastating account of the lives and loves of two women, one contemporary and Scottish, the other the legendary George Sand; both writers. The parallel lives are tellingly written, and this matters: the story also reveals the persuasive, elusive shadows that writing and reading insinuate into the texture of a life." —Harry Mathews, author of My Life in CIA and former editor at the Paris Review
The House in Morocco
In an old stone house on the est coast of Morocco, Sarah Henderson, an American journalist, is welcomed by its inhabitants: Nick, the aristocratic English owner, yann the French sailor, Aisha, the mother of Yann's child, and Aziz, with whom she falls passionately in love. The mysterious "man who feeds seagulls" crosses Sarah's path, obliging her to reconsider her own actions and those of her mother, who came to this town in 1936 and was sent home in disgrace. Memory, desire, the conflicting assumptions of different cultures; the meanings we ascribe to events; love and its many faces: these are some of the themes of the novel and the realities Sarah has to understand before the keys are taken back from her, the locks changed, and the house made inaccessible once again.
Seas Outside the Reef
Emily De Soto, a stunning 34-year-old, arrives in Key West in 1994 full of secrets and anxieties. Fourteen years earlier, she immigrated to Miami from Cuba, leaving behind her new husband, political philosopher Raul, whom she hasn't seen or heard from since. Her family, however, has heard news, and Emily is on hand to help smuggle Raul into the country. While she's waiting for a man she barely knew in her youth, Emily meets Harry, a handsome and reticent sailor. She falls deeply in love with the blond American and soon has to choose between the two very different men. Brackenbury expertly weaves together the viewpoints of her three main characters, then adds a first-person point-of-view from a seemingly objective source: Harry's mate, Martha. A pragmatic soul, Martha is deeply touched and altered by what she witnesses that muggy, languid summer. Sensuality abounds in this lyrical novel, yet each lush description of this colorful seafaring community is laced with mystery and danger. Kristin Kloberdanz
The Joy of the Nearly Old
Poetry. "These rich, fluent poems tell the story of a writer's pilgrimage. They are filled with the colors and vibrancy of her world, a world that includes Key West, England, Paris and, of course, literature itself. The sentences are so poised and artfully phrased that, despite their sometimes dark subject matter, they are a palpable pleasure on the tongue." —Harvey Shapiro
The Circus at the End of the World
In Rosalind Brackenbury’s novel, The Circus at the End of the World, Markie is a young juggler who inherited his skill from Ulla, his absent mother. Left with Ulla's lover Louis, a gifted painter who only paints gum trees, Markie grows up in the Tasmanian countryside until he takes charge of his destiny and sets out to the mainland and on to Paris and London to search for his mother. Juggling gives Markie the strength and vision to make daring moves and assertions, and it's juggling that gives Markie the ability to finally reunite his family.
As Markie emerges into manhood, he falls in love with Tania, a woman he meets while juggling on the streets of Sydney. Markie is an exceptional young man, wise and sure-footed, and instilled with a charming confidence as he steps into the new physical and emotional person he finds is himself. And Rosalind Brackenbury conveys the startling changes of a maturing man with the assurance and grace that make this journey enchanting and true. We're sure Markie is correct in his quest for Tania, who has also lost her mother. And we understand that Louis' refusal to search for Ulla--to stay put with the hope that she will return--is just as correct as Markie's choice to leave. As the characters are brought together there is a sense of inevitability and completeness and the thrill of events made right.
Brackenbury is also a poet, and there is a poet's use of language here that makes every work count and adds a quality of magical realism to The Circus at the End of the World. But this is a book that is grounded in reality--we can believe in the characters and their stories and root for them as they find their way in the world.
A magically written, haunting tale of a boy's search for himself … The Circus at the End of the World
The Beautiful Routes of the West
Praise for Rosalind Brackenbury's The Beautiful Routes of the West
"This is a book of exquisite passion and clear conviction. It is a celebration of the intimate distances shared by lovers and the fragile equations that govern our lives... This is easily the best book of poems I've read in a long time... These words, these wonderful, ennobling generous words, will last, thank goodness, forever." — Bud Navero, Solares Hill
"Brackenbury's native poetic sense [is] balanced by her capacity to tease out, and fulfill, the reader's expectations." —Publishers Weekly
"Wandering unexpectedly into such a bookroom as Ms. Brackenbury has created provides such an undiminished pleasure that one understands once again and instantly why it is that one reads books... She talks of lovers and of mothers, of friends and of necessities. Her poems almost run together like so many neglected candles on an altar, and yet each provides a blessing we remain conscious of, and our pleasure does not diminish as we proceed. This is the rarest thing in the world." —Mandrake Poetry Review
Windstorm and Flood
“The day after the hurricane, the city was full of birds.”
Set against the backdrop of Hurricane Georges in South Florida as well as Hurricane Mitch in Honduras the same disastrous fall of 1998, Windstorm and Flood is a novel of love, loss, redemption and recovery. Jim Russo is a preacher in Key West, trying to salvage what’s left of his church and congregation in the wake of the hurricane. His wife has left him and his faith has left with her. Into his wreck of a life walks Sarah, a former lover from decades past…”
Between Man and Woman Keys - Short Stories
“Rosalind Brackenbury’s compelling stories, set in the Florida Keys, Paris, the south of France and London, are mostly fraught with ominous possibilities that she turns into experiences of revelation and (for the reader at least) delight. How she does this must be largely left to the mystery of her art; but I suspect it is, among other things, the demonstration of a benign and generous temperament so infusing the written word that it issues forth as beguiling narrative, in language unstintingly fresh and refreshing.”
- Harry Mathews, former editor of Paris Review.
Poems about relationships, the way two people come together and drift apart and then come together again. Some about the poet's childhood and the feelings she still has for the parents who have departed. There are steamy poems, of travel and romance, and a section of poems that deal head-on with the political problems of the modern world.
The True Story of Henrietta Penelope hen
A story of persecution and redemption of Key West's famous feral poultry, as told by avain matriarch, Henrietta Penelope Hen (a.k.a. Henny-Penny). Written by well-known Key West author, Rosalind Brackenbury and profusely and whimsically illustrated by Rosalind's daughter, Miranda Brackenbury.
The Woman in the Tower
This is a story of modern times, of women's struggle to relate to the outside world while trapped in a circle of time where nothing changes, like the princess trapped in the tower, waiting … England: Harvester Press, 1982.