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A Severed Wasp: A Novel [Paperback]

By Madeleine L'Engle (Author)
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Item description for A Severed Wasp: A Novel by Madeleine L'Engle...

Pianist Katherine Forrester Vigneras, in her seventies and retired, discovers new meaning in life when she agrees to give a benefit concert at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, in New York

Publishers Description
Katherine Forrester Vigneras, in a continuation of her story from The Small Rain, returns to New York City from Europe to retire. Now in her seventies, she encounters an old friend from her Greenwich Village days who, it turns out, is the former Bishop of New York. He asks Katherine to give a benefit concert at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. This leads to new demands on her resources--human, artistic, psychological, and spiritual--that are entirely unexpected.

Citations And Professional Reviews
A Severed Wasp: A Novel by Madeleine L'Engle has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -
  • Wilson Fiction Catalog - 01/01/2010 page 495

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Pages   388
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 7.6" Width: 5.2" Height: 1.3"
Weight:   0.7 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Nov 1, 1983
Publisher   Farrar, Straus and Giroux
ISBN  0374517835  
ISBN13  9780374517830  

Availability  0 units.

More About Madeleine L'Engle

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Madeleine L'Engle (1918-2007) was the Newbery Medal-winning author of more than 60 books, including the much-loved A Wrinkle in Time. Born in 1918, L'Engle grew up in New York City, Switzerland, South Carolina and Massachusetts. Her father was a reporter and her mother had studied to be a pianist, and their house was always full of musicians and theater people. L'Engle graduated cum laude from Smith College, then returned to New York to work in the theater. While touring with a play, she wrote her first book, The Small Rain, originally published in 1945. She met her future husband, Hugh Franklin, when they both appeared in The Cherry Orchard.

Upon becoming Mrs. Franklin, L'Engle gave up the stage in favor of the typewriter. In the years her three children were growing up, she wrote four more novels. Hugh Franklin temporarily retired from the theater, and the family moved to western Connecticut and for ten years ran a general store. Her book Meet the Austins, an American Library Association Notable Children's Book of 1960, was based on this experience.

Her science fantasy classic A Wrinkle in Time was awarded the 1963 Newbery Medal. Two companion novels, A Wind in the Door and A Swiftly Tilting Planet (a Newbery Honor book), complete what has come to be known as The Time Trilogy, a series that continues to grow in popularity with a new generation of readers. Her 1980 book A Ring of Endless Light won the Newbery Honor. L'Engle passed away in 2007 in Litchfield, Connecticut.

Madeleine L'Engle lived in New York City, in the state of New York. Madeleine L'Engle was born in 1918 and died in 2007.

Madeleine L'Engle has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Austin Family
  2. Crosswicks Journal
  3. Crosswicks Journal
  4. Madeleine L'Engle's Time Quintet
  5. Wheaton Literary
  6. Writers' Palette Book

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Biographies & Memoirs > Arts & Literature > Biographies > Classical > General
2Books > Subjects > History > Jewish > Holocaust
3Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > General > Contemporary

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Reviews - What do customers think about A Severed Wasp: A Novel?

Waking Up   May 15, 2007
Although perhaps best known for her excellent work in children's fiction, Madeleine L'Engle is an astounding writer of adult fiction. "A Severed Wasp" is a brilliant novel that interweaves numerous characters and storylines without losing or short-changing a single one. L'Engle is a masterful storyteller with an uncanny ability to weave intelligence and faith into the heart of her stories.

To try to summarize the plot of "A Severed Wasp" would do a disservice to the book, for it is a joy to discover each intricate detail as it emerges from the past and present. The tale centers around Madame Katherine Vigneras, a concert pianist, who has returned to her home in New York City, hoping to retire quietly. Out of the blue she is contacted by an old acquaintance, a former bishop of the Episcopal Church, who wishes for her to give a benefit concert for the cathedral's building fund. Against her better judgment, Katherine soon finds herself agreeing, and finds her retirement anything but quiet as she becomes involved in the lives of those connected with the cathedral. Yet as she learns more about the families associated with the church, she finds a dark story lurking just beneath the surface, a mystery that someone doesn't want uncovered and is more than willing to keep Katherine from discovering the truth.

"A Severed Wasp" is beatifully written, a testament to the power of memory, as Katherine weaves her narrative between present events and the past that has shaped the woman she is today. At times the story is ponderous and relies a little too heavily on coincidence, but L'Engle pulls her narrative through to the end. And while the resolution is perhaps a little quick in coming, the buildup to the final pages is a remarkable journey. The author deftly brings all of these characters to life, making the reader one with the events unfolding around them. Madeleine L'Engle allows her readers to witness firsthand, the joy and bittersweet realities of life through fictional characters, a feat that is often hard to accomplish.
Well written but ultimately disturbing  Mar 31, 2006
I grew up reading and enjoying L'Engle books, and recently re-read "A Severed Wasp." Now that I'm older and have children my perspective has changed, and the book bothered me. (Spoiler alert!) At the end of the book Katherine discovers that one of the characters attempted to molest a child (kissing on the mouth, telling her she was like a sacred temple virgin, other innapropriate behavior and statements) - - and then threatened the child if she told anyone. This had happened 2 years prior, and because of certain events that took place the child was afraid to tell anyone and had been living a nightmare. Her sister and friend were frequent visitors of this character and seemed to be in her thrall. When Katherine discovers this, instead of immediately telling the child's parents, and getting the other 2 girls out of danger, she just takes it upon herself to offer absolution to the character. This horrified me! Katherine's behavior is portrayed by the author as being wise and gracious, instead of criminally negligent. I also found Katherine's personality to be abrasive, self-serving and annoying. As another reviewer stated, the author sees Katherine through rose colored glasses, but she bothered me intensely. Most of the characters tried to justify immoral behavior. The book left me with a really bad taste in my mouth.
very readable but often disappointing  Sep 17, 2005
Like other reviewers, I was a "Wrinkle in Time" fan who ran across the "adult" books and the bookstore and thought I would return to her writing. I read "A Small Rain" few months ago, which I mostly enjoyed. What was striking to me was how the characters lingered with me, sneaking into my thoughts even months later. So when I saw this return to the same characters, I was happy to pick up "A Severed Wasp."

But I didn't really enjoy the book. It succeeds as a story - a good pace, and very readable. But the magic of the characters disappears in this follow-up. I found the main character Katherine to be annoying, a dislikable person who is constantly described lovingly. L'Engle constantly flatters this character as so talented, amazing, and eminently respected by all. But she is clearly a judgmental person, stubborn, self-centered, and obnoxious. In "A Small Rain", interactions between Katherine and other characters reveal how her stubbornness might be a strength and a weakness. Here, Katherine remains an imperfect person but the reader sees her only through the author's rose colored glasses. It becomes tiresome very quickly.

The lack of character richness extend to the minor players as well - it is only in the last few pages that L'Engle attempts to bring any motives to characters beyond the lead, which makes the ending seem forced and implausible. Even the character of Mimi who is so prominent throughout the book lacks independent qualities or motives, and is essentially dismissed before the end of the novel.

I suppose I did enjoy the puzzle of the portrait of Katherine - given her self-absorbed, arrogant nature, why do the other characters flock around her? But in the end, the characters just do not work for me.

A wonderful sequel  Jul 13, 2005
This book is SO much better if you have read A Small Rain! I had not, the first time I read this, and while I liked it, I did not love it (which is unusual for me with a L'Engle book). But, I recently read A Small Rain and then re-read A Severed Wasp. I only kind of remembered it because it had been so long and it was delightful. I think part of my lack of enthusiasm the first time was that I was too young for it the first time I read it. I think it stands alone as a novel, but not when you are too young to appreciate it. Had I read A Small Rain, first, I think I would have loved this from the beginning because I could have read it as a sequel. Now, I could probably just read it as a novel and enjoy it, but not as a teenager!

L'Engle does what she does best - weaves complex characters into a multi-faceted, multi-layered story. It is fun to see characters from her other (young-adult) novels and what became of them. Though, I would have liked to have had more back story on how they got to where they are (that's a story L'Engle has never told). I also would have loved more back story on Manya's relationship with Phillipa Hunter (from And Both Were Young), but that's the obesessed L'Engle fan in me. This is a fantastic novel and one that almost anyone (old enough) should be able to enjoy.
Wise and unsentimental - L'Engle's best  Jun 21, 2005
Katherine Vigneras, concert pianist and widow of composer Justin Vigneras, returns to New York - the city of her youth - in retirement. She's in her seventies now, enjoying good health despite a few of the usual age-related physical problems, and she's tremendously thankful that she can still keep a routine of daily practice. When she meets an old friend whom she hasn't seen since she was seventeen years old, she has no idea that their renewed connection will draw her into a mystery that is somehow tied to the cathedral where Felix Bodeway was once Bishop of New York. She's simply amazed that the boy she knew could have turned into a clergyman.

This thoroughly adult (in the best sense of that word) novel is peopled with characters familiar to L'Engle's readers from her young adult books. I found it fascinating to look at them through a different pair of eyes - those of sophisticated expatriate, septugenarian Katherine. As always, even L'Engle's "minor" characters reach the page fully fleshed. The novel plays itself out in layers, as each event in Katherine's present day life (her "new" life of retirement) reminds her of her past. She moves back and forth through time, across the Atlantic and back, and takes the reader along without causing confusion. Writing with this technique takes skill, but it's absolutely necessary when following the thoughts of an elderly protagonist whose work now is to make sense out of the past. To think through everything that she had no time to analyze while she was living it, and to come to terms with everything she's lived long enough to regret.

L'Engle's best, in my opinion; and I've been reading L'Engle since I discovered A WRINKLE IN TIME over 40 years ago. Wise and unsentimental, yet brimming with hope and with common human love. Highly recommended, indeed!


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