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 fall into the kind of fast, deep friendship that can take over—and change the course of—our lives.
Inspired by Flannery O’Connor and Robert Lowell, Frances and Bernard explores, through new characters with charms entirely their own, 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?
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.
"A story of conversion, shattered love and the loss of faith, recalling 20th century masters like Graham Greene and Walker Percy…Frances is refreshingly down-to-earth in her spiritual convictions…Bauer gets right… the shifting balance of literary ambition and emotional need, Yeats’s old choice between perfection of the life or of the work. Bauer is herself a distinctive stylist who can write about Simone Weil or Kierkegaard with wit and charm. A fresh voice thinking seriously about what a religiously committed life might have felt like and perhaps, in our own far-from tranquil period, might feel like again." - New York Times Book Review
"Graceful and gem-like…. Through Bauer’s sharp, witty, and elegant prose, [Frances and Bernard] become vibrant and original characters…. These are not your typical lovebirds, but writers with fierce and fine intellects.… We are reminded of the power of correspondence — the flirtation of it, the nervousness, the delicious uncertainty of writing bold things and then waiting days, weeks, or even months for a reply. After finishing this sweet and somber novel, we might sigh and think, 'It's a shame we don’t write love letters anymore' — before stopping for a moment to marvel at the subtlety of what Bauer has wrought out of history and a generous imagination, and being thankful that someone still is."--Boston Globe "Frances and Bernard
portrays two writers drawn into a friendship sparked by mutual admiration. They elegantly convey their reflections, encouragements and chastisements in letters written over a span of 11 years…Bauer captures the style and language of the period with gleeful dexterity.…Bauer is masterful in whipping up the frenzy of Bernard’s unstable certainty that she is the answer to his Olympian quest…Bauer, who has published a memoir about her evangelical childhood and subsequent conversion to Catholicism, writes with authority and gusto about issues of faith. The prose here is exquisite, winding between narrative momentum and lofty introspection. And she employs the epistolary form nimbly, providing an intimate, uncluttered space for her characters to develop. The most unexpected pleasure of this period love story is spending time in the company of people who are engaged in the edifying pursuit of living as Christians — a good reminder that, regardless of the current upheaval in the church, the big questions are still worth asking. -- The Washington Post
"With wonderful writing, elegant, pithy and witty, the author reeled me in from the very beginning. Two young writers in another, more genteel place and time, a burgeoning friendship, the possibility of romance? It struck me as the perfect con"Dazzling and gorgeously written, Frances and Bernard
features a pair of brilliant, complicated writers who present themselves to each other in letters that form the most exciting epistolary novel in recent memory. A slim book, it still seems to say all of the important things about friendship, faith, love, the literary life, and especially the costs of living as an artist while still inhabiting the real world. It’s a marvel." —Ann Packer, author of The Dive from Clausen’s Pier
and Songs Without Words