The Romance of Eleanor Gray

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Raymond Kennedy has been hailed as "a novelist of . . . diabolical artistry" (Chicago Tribune), a "master storyteller" (Raymond Carver), and "truly . . . one of this country's finest writers" (Boston Globe). He is, wrote the New York Times critic Anatole Broyard, "the kind of novelist who gets high praise in sophisticated places." In his first new novel in almost a decade, Kennedy offers a lyrical tale of a young woman's awakening.

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Overview

Raymond Kennedy has been hailed as "a novelist of . . . diabolical artistry" (Chicago Tribune), a "master storyteller" (Raymond Carver), and "truly . . . one of this country's finest writers" (Boston Globe). He is, wrote the New York Times critic Anatole Broyard, "the kind of novelist who gets high praise in sophisticated places." In his first new novel in almost a decade, Kennedy offers a lyrical tale of a young woman's awakening.

Raised in cosmopolitan Fall River, Masschusetts, twenty-year-old Eleanor Gray arrives in East Becket, in the Berkshire hills, to become the town's new schoolteacher. Intelligent and quick-witted, she is welcomed as a shining addition to this isolated community. Almost as soon as she arrives, she becomes aware of a local young woman named Evangeline Sewell.

Independent, imperious, almost antisocial, Evangeline is also mysteriously charismatic. A native of the dying "upcountry" village of Wisdom Way, she has been living as a ward of the town. Now, however, she has withdrawn abruptly from school and soon retreats to her native village. Intuiting that the girl has "gotten in trouble," Eleanor initiaties a correspondence, ostensibly to offer assistance but also to satisfy her own desire to establish contact. As Eleanor slowly yields to a growing infatuation with Evangeline, she finds herself torn between her commitment to her community and her loyalty to this headstrong young woman.

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Editorial Reviews

From The Critics
an atmospheric book, evoking a lost world and a powerful, erotic obsession . . . [the prose is] grave, almost ceremonial . . . Its restraint both suits the New England it describes and heightens the tension of the furious emotions it never quite names . . . a haunting book.
Kirkus Reviews
The distinctions between investigation, fixation, and obsession in a story of a young woman who becomes fascinated by another woman in early-20th-century New England. "[The] green geometries of the farmlands, a tiny white church spire discerned amid a cluster of trees, and widely scattered rooftops then of barns and houses" make up Eleanor Gray's first glimpse of East Becket, the town where she'll answer her calling as a schoolteacher. A "young female possessed of hair as pale as cornsilk, her skin all but translucent" is her initial assessment of Evangeline Sewell, who will loom large in her time in East Becket. As Eleanor begins her life among the common folk, her classroom goes as might be suspected, but Evangeline is soon intruding on Eleanor's thoughts-"perhaps to an unnatural extent." Under mysterious circumstances, Evangeline promptly disappears to a nearby town called Wisdom Way, and when Eleanor writes her a letter, she's rebuffed by the young woman, though Evangeline does accept Eleanor's offer to act as a go-between for messages to others. Evangeline follows up with terse requests but offers no explanation for why she has vanished. Still, Eleanor remains mesmerized, and what started as a journey among the familiar has been changed by "the magical effect that this young female worked on some of those around her." Eleanor takes up with Alonzo Klaw, an artist who has spent hours drawing Evangeline, in a journey to Wisdom Way, where they learn that Evangeline has just given birth. The questions loom: Is Evangeline more like Lizzie Borden, or a kind of local Joan of Arc? The pursuit (a concern? a courting?) continues nevertheless, and Eleanor will finally catch up with Evangeline.But will it all end like a fairy tale, or a romance? A haunting tale from an established voice (The Bitterest Age, 1994, etc.).
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781584652915
  • Publisher: University Press of New England
  • Publication date: 9/1/2003
  • Series: Hardscrabble Books-Fiction of New England
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 276
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

RAYMOND KENNEDY was the author of seven novels, including The Bitterest Age (1994), Lulu Incognito (1989), and To Ride a Cockhorse (UPNE, 2003). He taught writing workshops at Columbia University and New York University. He died in 2008.

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