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Necessary Madness

Necessary Madness

4.0 4
by Jenn Crowell

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After losing her husband to leukemia, Gloria Burgess vows not to fall apart, for her own sake and that of her young son. Yet, despite her bravest efforts, Gloria will be swept up in a remarkable rite of passage. It will plunge her into a shattering exploration of her parent's unfulfilled marriage, entwine her destiny with the life of a passionate artist, and


After losing her husband to leukemia, Gloria Burgess vows not to fall apart, for her own sake and that of her young son. Yet, despite her bravest efforts, Gloria will be swept up in a remarkable rite of passage. It will plunge her into a shattering exploration of her parent's unfulfilled marriage, entwine her destiny with the life of a passionate artist, and ultimately force her into an utter reinvention of herself, transmuting her grief and anger into love and forgiveness.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Whatever the qualities of this first novel-and they are notable, on both sides of the ledger-the qualities of its author are going to steal the spotlight in the months to come, in large part because of the publisher's promo campaign. Crowell was a 17-year-old high-school senior when she completed this work. Her writing teacher at Goucher College, novelist Madison Smartt Bell, read it during Crowell's freshman year and sent it to his agent, who sold it. Surprisingly, the novel is no story of adolescent passage. It is, rather, the thoughtful tale, filled with many small insights, of how a woman in her 30s weathers grief and learns to live with it. When British painter Bill Burgess dies of leukemia, his American wife, Gloria, is left alone in London with her young son. Gloria's first-person voice is engagingly worldly as she worries about her son, swings between grief and numbness and revisits her past-particularly her relationships with her mother, a cold perfectionist, and her father, a weak intellectual who committed suicide. These parents suffer from some slick, even stereotypical characterization. More troublesome is the scantiness of the plot, which is mechanically propelled by the question of whether Gloria will agree to a retrospective of her husband's work organized by a cloyingly sensitive friend. Crowell's prose is so clean that, at times, readers may be lulled by its cadences into mistaking rudimentary psychological insight for something edgier, deeper, finer. In fact, Crowell has fashioned an above-average domestic drama-nothing less, but nothing more. 150,000 first printing; $150,000 ad/promo; BOMC selection; film rights to Sony Entertainment; audio rights to Brilliance and Books on Tape; foreign rights sold in 10 countries. (Mar.)
Library Journal
Curiosity seekers, doubters, and naysayers will pick up this first novel to see whether the 18-year-old author can really write adult fiction; all but the most jaded will hang on till the end. Gloria Burgess, a recently widowed American-born Londoner, is haunted by memories and terrified that she'll lose the basic competence she needs to raise her son. She seeks answers in the eerie confluence between her history and that of the mother she despises. Both married Englishmen, and both found themselves young widows. Gloria's father spent his life licking the wounds left when his first fiance died in a car crash. Gloria bears a striking resemblance to her father's lost love, and their relationship is borderline incestuous. He commits suicide not long after Gloria moves to England. Meanwhile, Gloria helps Jascha organize a retrospective of her husband's work. There is a spark between Gloria and Jascha-perhaps because he lost his wife and daughter in a car crash five years previously. If all this sounds like a bit much, it is, but in spite of the Sister Carrie-ish trowel-loads of tragedy, Crowell never loses control of her material or tinctures it with sentiment. Crowell's shifting of mood and character as Gloria begins to accept her loss and reconcile with her mother reflects a skill and wisdom impressive in any young author, not just a 17 year old. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 11/1/96.]-Adam Mazmanian, "Library Journal"
Kirkus Reviews
Not only a first novel, but a first by a now-18-year-old writer—yet, surprisingly, this tale of a young woman's grief over the death of her artist husband tugs at the heartstrings with the best of them.

Gloria Burgess was an unhappy child, with a mother frustrated at having to sacrifice a music career to raise her and a father who liked to pretend that Gloria was the reincarnation of a childhood sweetheart he'd loved and lost. Happiness came easily as an adult, though, when Gloria met and fell in love with London-based artist Bill Burgess, married him and had a child. She is 30 before tragedy strikes, taking her happiness away for good, it seems. Bill is diagnosed with leukemia, and Gloria must stand by helplessly as the best man she has ever known sickens and dies. Left alone after the funeral, she somehow manages to parent her eight-year-old son, carry on at her teaching job, and find a reason to live. Help comes in the form of her mother, who's anxious to atone for her mistakes, and, more interestingly, from Jascha Kremsky, an artist acquaintance of Bill's who wants Gloria's permission to stage a retrospective of Bill's work. As Gloria and Jascha work together on the show, he's able to share with her his own experience of grieving. His support and friendship see Gloria through the darkest hours until she feels ready to take up her life again.

Crowell wrote this novel while finishing her senior year of high school. Its derivative tone, a minor defect from an author so young, subtracts very little from its fully-developed characters and maturity of content. A highly promising debut.

Product Details

Grand Central Publishing
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
4.12(w) x 6.75(h) x 0.75(d)

Meet the Author

Jenn Crowell was seventeen when she wrote Necessary Madness. She attended Goucher College in Baltimore, Maryland.

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Necessary Madness 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
KateUnger 9 months ago
Necessary Madness is a character-driven novel about a woman in London surviving after her husband dies from cancer. Gloria Burgess lives with her 7 year-old son, but she’s doing a poor job of everything due to her grief. She’s planning a retrospective of his artwork with his colleague. There isn’t much plot in the present. Every other chapter is a flashback to the past. The reader gets to see Gloria’s unhealthy relationship with her father, her refusal to talk to her mother after her father’s suicide, and her development of her relationship with Bill, her husband. I am not a fan of character-driven books, but I did find Gloria’s unintentional following in her parents footsteps (in some ways) to be intriguing. I also had to keep reading to see how things would develop with her current relationships with her son, her mother, and her husband’s colleague. This book was short, so I didn’t get too frustrated with the large percentage of text devoted to the back story. If you enjoy characterizations, you may like this one more than I did, but ultimately, it didn’t stand out to me. http://opinionatedbooklover.com/review-necessary-madness-by-jenn-crowell/
Guest More than 1 year ago
I wondered about the supposed ability of a 17 year old to portray adult love and grief. As I expected, she writes competently but with an obvious lack of experience. I am a recent widow and the book never moved me. She didn't understand grown-up passion when she wrote it, or the crushing sense of loss when a couple is divided by death, but simply created characters to inhabit a world she grasped only through the writings of others who had lived it (C.S. Lewis, for one). She should heed the advice, 'write about things you know.'
Guest More than 1 year ago
I truly enjoyed this book. She has such a new, yet classic style to her writing. She uses diction in ways I have not read in awhile. She made me feel part of the story rather than just the person reading it. I would recomend this book to anyone that calls themselves a reader.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A teacher that I truely admired recommended this book to me when I was a Sophmore in High School because when it was writen the author was only seventeen. When I read the book, I was blown away. Jenn Crowell was way mature and advanced for her age. This book helped me get interested in writing and changed my life. The story is beautifully written and emotionally apropriate. Anyone can find something in this book to relate to. It deals with death, life, and love... but from a place in the back of our hearts that we are afraid to address, but will inevitably face. I highly recommend this book to anyone who crosses my path.