New England authors

Review: Girl in the Moonlight a Luminous Novel

Posted on Updated on

Girl In the MoonlightIt’s clear why Charles Dubow’s Girl in the Moonlight is on so many summer reading lists: The story is passionate and engrossing; the writing simple, yet superb.

The novel tells the story of Wylie Rose who, at 9 years old, falls in love with Cesca Bonet–an impossibly beautiful, rich and incandescent girl a few years older. As teenagers, the two become lovers at her family’s summer home in East Hampton. But while Wylie wants forever, Cesca wants only freedom. As their paths cross and affair continues on and off over several decades, Cesca flees whenever Wylie’s passion becomes too constricting. Yet despite being hurt by Cesca time and again, Wylie’s devotion and desire never wanes. Instead, it flames into obsession, ruining him for other women (including the daughter of a count) and causing him to doubt his choices and his path.

A friendship with Cesca’s brother, an emerging painter named Aurelio, brings Wylie in and out of both Cesca’s life and the world of art. Painting plays a major role in the story as, through Aurelio, Wylie meets great artists and even gives a go at painting himself, attempting to live as an artist in New York City. In an interview with BookReporter, Dubow talks about his relationship with art, including how Goya’s Naked Maja and Manet’s Olympia inspired how he created and shaped Cesca: “There is an element of sensuality in the former and frankness in the latter, which I think sums up much of Cesca’s personality and the impact she has on people.”

Naked Maja, Goya
Naked Maja, Goya
Olympia, Manet
Olympia, Manet

“Sensual” is a great word to describe Girl in the Moonlight. Fans of Dubow’s debut novel, Indiscretion, won’t find the kind of R-rated sex that appeared there. Girl in the Moonlight is more PG or PG-13. But its sensuality is no less provocative and compelling. In fact, on many levels, it’s more real.

Not everyone will experience the kind of erotic passion that characters Claire and Harry do in Indiscretion. (Though how fabulous if we all did!) But the longing Wylie feels for Cesca–his ability, against reason, to move on and let go–is one that most of us have experienced, whether for a lover, a place, a talent or other desire that’s taken hold of our dreams and heart.

IndiscretionPeopled with engaging and poignant characters, Girl in the Moonlight takes readers from the wooded cottages of old East Hampton, to the dining rooms of Upper East Side Manhattan, to the bohemian art studios of Paris and Barcelona. As Kirkus wrote in its review, “Dubow offers a heady, intoxicating tale, and young Wylie’s journey to manhood is a memorable one.”

Charles Dubow will be one of our guests on the Monday, June 15, Literary New England Radio Show. Girl in the Moonlight will be among our giveaways that evening, as will Sy Montgomery’s The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness and Jean Zimmerman’s Savage Girl. The show will feature interviews with all three of these authors and, while listening, you’ll have the chance to Tweet or email us to win one of these terrific books!

Advertisements

On Salem’s Witch House, Conversion Disorder & Witch Cake (though you may want to skip the slice of cake)

Posted on

The Witch House (left), home of Salem witch trials judge Jonathan Corwin, is the only structure with direct ties to the 1692 trials that still exists in Salem, Mass. It’s now a museum. Mary Silbley, the most powerful witch in the WGN America television series Salem, lives in a house (right) clearly inspired by Corwin’s.

In the WGN series (Season 2 premiers Sunday, April 5), Mary Sibley is a main character. But the real-life Mary Sibley was only a minor one. Historical records show that the real Mary, a neighbor of Puritan minister Rev. Samuel Parris, encouraged Parris’ slaves Tituba and John Indian to make a witch cake, which was believed to have the power to reveal witches. Parris’ daughter Elizabeth and niece Abigail Williams were among the young girls barking like dogs, screaming wildly and acting up in ways that villagers believed could only be the result of witchcraft.

As the video here featuring an educator from the Salem Witch Museum explains, a witch cake was a form of old European white magic made out of rye meal and urine from the afflicted girls. The finished cake would be fed to a dog, with the belief that as the dog ate the cake, the witch would cry out in pain as the invisible, “venomous and malignant particles” sent from her body into the bewitched girls were mashed by the dog’s teeth. When this occurred, the identity of the witch would be revealed.

As we know now, all kinds of false beliefs and happenings contributed to the frenzy that became the Salem witch panic. One of the more fascinating aspects is the possibility of a medical condition called Conversation Disorder, which the Literary New England Radio Show talked about with best-selling author Katherine Howe when her latest novel, Conversion, was released this past July.

Hear Katherine talk about her book and Conversion Disorder in the Literary New England Radio Show archives, which she describes this way:

Conversion disorder is when you are under so much stress that your body converts it into physical symptoms. And when it happens in a group the term for that is “mass psychogenic illness.” But the term we’re more familiar with, the term that’s an old-fashioned Freudian term is “hysteria.”

Learning about Conversation Disorder was part of the inspiration for Conversion, which is set at a private school in Danvers, Mass. There, teen-age girls are falling into uncontrollable frenzies. As the media arrives, and the community scrambles to find someone or something to blame, a student who’s been reading The Crucible for extra credit realizes what nobody else does: Danvers was once Salem Village, where another group of girls suffered from a similarly bizarre epidemic 300 years ago.

As Howe explains in our interview, the novel was inspired by several real-life events, including the Salem witch trials, of which she’s pretty much an expert. In addition to being a direct descendant of three Salem women accused of witchcraft, she is the author of The New York Times best-selling novel The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane (about a young woman who discovers her ties to Salem) and the non-fiction The Penguin Book of Witches.
All of her books cast a spell 🙂

If you’ve enjoyed this article, check out the others we’ve posted as part of Literary New England’s 5-day Witch-A-Thon. Between now and Sunday, we’ve got witch book giveaways and lots of other frighteningly wonderful things going on! 

We’re hosting a 5-day Witch-a-Thon that starts today!

Posted on

image

Books and stories about witches and magic rarely fail to cast a spell.

New England’s witch history has inspired countless works of fiction and non-fiction, as well as films and television series like the WGN America’s “Salem,” which broadcasts its season 2 premier this Sunday night, April 5.

Inspired
by all the hubbub going on around the start of Salem’s 13 episodes of
“Witch Wars,” we at Literary New England decided to host a 5-day
Witch-A-Thon, featuring witch-related book giveaways, author interviews,
reading lists, feature authors and more!

Several times a day
between now and Sunday, we’ll post witchy articles, photos and lots of
other New England witch-inspired  content, so check back often!

On Twitter, @LitNewEngland and Literary New England Radio Show host @WriterCindyWB
will also post favorite #witchquotes from #witchbooks and authors who,
like us, are drawn to all things related to witches and Salem … though
as one of our upcoming articles will explain, Salem wasn’t the only New
England village to experience a witch panic. In fact, Salem wasn’t even
the first
.

More to come later. Stay tuned and become part of our
#WitchAThon by spreading the word! If you haven’t got a broom, use
Twitter, Facebook or maybe even send your familiar 🙂

Image Posted on Updated on

Connecticut native Wally Lamb yesterday, May 30, at Book Expo America 2103, reading and speaking about his new novel, “We Are Water,” due out on November. Set in Connecticut, the book’s main character, similar to Lamb, works at a New England university. Lamb is a former UConn professor. He told the crowd at the BEA that the plot also involves two traumatic events that occurred in his own childhood. He also said: “Writers and readers are two poles. [Books and stories} are the electricity that connect us.” …. What a great way to describe the power of stories and storytelling. (Photo courtesy of BEA Digital Press Room)