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Frances and Bernard by Carlene Bauer


“A novel of stunning subtlety, grace, and depth . . . compos[ed in] dueling letters of breathtaking wit, seduction, and heartbreak.” —Booklist, starred review

A letter can spark a friendship.
 A friendship can change your life.

In the summer of 1957, Frances and Bernard meet at an artists’ colony. She finds him faintly ridiculous, but talented. He sees her as aloof, but intriguing. Afterward, he writes her a letter. Soon they are immersed in the kind of fast, deep friendship that can take over—and change the course of—our lives.

From points afar, they find their way to New York and, for a few whirling years, each other. The city is a wonderland for young people with dreams: cramped West Village kitchens, rowdy cocktail parties stocked with the sharp-witted and glamorous, taxis that can take you anywhere at all, long talks along the Hudson River as the lights of the Empire State Building blink on above.

Inspired by the lives of Flannery O’Connor and Robert Lowell, Frances and Bernard imagines, through new characters with charms entirely their own, what else might have happened. It explores the limits of faith, passion, sanity, what it means to be a true friend, and the nature of acceptable sacrifice. In the grandness of the fall, can we love another person so completely that we lose ourselves? How much should we give up for those we love? How do we honor the gifts our loved ones bring and still keep true to our dreams?

In witness to all the wonder of kindred spirits and bittersweet romance, Frances and Bernard is a tribute to the power of friendship and the people who help us discover who we are.

My Review

I would never had thought that reading letters could prove to be so interesting till now. This novel concerns the meeting and befriending of two person both artists and have a keen belief in God. There to and fro in letter replies from their beginning stages till there final letter paints a picture of love for each other, faith and writing. He’s a poet soon to publish and she’s a visceral writer from Iowa’s workshop soon to possibly publish her first book. As their worlds meet one sways more towards more than normal reflections on the others being. There discussions on all things great and small godly and ungodly provided a great passage of reading for me and I am sure many may like this passage of time, transpiring of souls, these artists that both have an art form to pursue, can they handle a great long lasting relationship that will not interlope their craft and path.


I want to thank you for getting me out of the nunnery and possible getting me out of this other house of horrors.
And: thank you for your book. It’s handsome. But please do not mistake me for someone who has direct communication with God. Also, I’m a fiction writer. My judgements are he judgements of a mortal, and they are hobbled by my earthbound obstinate insistence on the concrete. You Know what I’ve told you before. You and i are so very different. I am one word at a time, one foot in front of the other, slowly, always testing how sure my footing is before proceeding to the next sentence, with ruminative breaks for buttered toast and coffee. Your poems make the old feeling of cowdom come over me: stalled in a vast unconquerable field, alone, ruminating. While you’re Christopher Wren. You’ve made me commit the grave sin of hyperbole in trying to convince you of my esteem- Christopher Wren! Dear God. So be flattered.

“Michael is probably a much better Christian than me- if i were as godly, i would not have decided to celebrate my last week of summer by swimming naked at night, but have you ever seen the moon waxing crescent, hanging low and white in the sky, and heard the breeze blow through the bushes and trees? You feel as ripening and shining as the night you are in, and it’s excruciating to stand there enduring nature- God’s instantiation, God’s invitation-as a spectator when you plunge yourself in the middle of it. That felt sinful,to not plunge myself in the middle of it.”

“But his mind and his heart seem free of cruelty-as he talked, i saw them as two gears connected by the same belt, a belt running at top speed, frequently hiccuping and flapping at the speed and the strain before correcting itself and grinding on.
That is Bernard.”