Posts Tagged Erika Robuck

MAY Boston-area Book Readings of Note

romantic outlaws

Charlotte Gordon
Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley
Brookline Booksmith
Tuesday, May 5 at 7pm

house of hawthorne

Erika Robuck
The House of Hawthorne
Newtonville Books
Tuesday, May 5 at 7pm

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Sarah McCoy
The Mapmaker’s Children
Brookline Booksmith
Wednesday, May 6 at 7pm

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John Palfrey
BiblioTech: Why Libraries Matter More than Ever in the Age of Google
Harvard Book Store
Thursday, May 7 at 7pm

dream lover

Elizabeth Berg
The Dream Lover
Newtonville Books
Thursday, May 7 at 7pm

daylight marriage

Heidi Pitlor
The Daylight Marriage
Porter Square Books
Thursday, May 7 at 7pm

Erika Robuck
The House of Hawthorne
Sarah McCoy
The Mapmaker’s Children
The Concord Bookshop
Thursday, May 7 at 7pm

everything

Celeste Ng
Everything I Never Told You
Porter Square Books
Tuesday, May 12 at 7pm

hospice

Gregory Howard
Hospice
Brookline Booksmith
Wednesday, May 13 at 7pm

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Anne Enright
The Green Road
Harvard Book Store
Wednesday, May 13 at 7pm

Heidi Pitlor
The Daylight Marriage
Newtonville Books
Thursday, May 14 at 7pm

salinger year

Joanna Rakoff
My Salinger Year
Harvard Book Store
Saturday, May 16 at 7pm

9780374280307

Barney Frank
Frank: A Life in Politics from the Great Society to Same-Sex Marriage
Brookline Booksmith
Thursday, May 21 at 6pm

women of will

Tina Packer
Women of Will
Porter Square Books
Friday, May 22 at 7pm

Mako Yoshikawa
Every Father’s Daughter: Twenty-Four Women Writers Remember their Father
Brookline Booksmith
Saturday, May 23 at 5pm

ISIS

Dr. Jessica Stern
ISIS: The State of Terror
The Concord Bookshop
Thursday, May 28 at 7pm

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IN THE REALM: BEST BOOKS of 2014 [SO FAR]

daring ladies of lowell

The Daring Ladies of Lowell by Kate Alcott
–Lowell mill girls. a murder. riveting historical fiction.

everything i never

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
–heartbreaking exploration on race and identity in the 1970s.

JoannaSmithRakoff.jacket

My Salinger Year by Joanna Rakoff
–Rakoff makes her memoir about a year working at a literary agency in New York heartwarming, relatable and intriguing through exquisite writing.

fallout

Fallout by Sadie Jones
–fell in love with this book about a group of 20-somethings entangled with the theatre and each other’s lives in 1970s London.

boy snow bird

Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi
–stunning re-telling of a fairytale and examination of race.

visible city

Visible City by Tova Mirvis
–cool writing, intriguing premise. reflection on connectivity, relationships and urban dwelling.

pioneer girl

Pioneer Girl by Bich Minh Nguyen
–another wonderful novel about race. this time a young woman’s connection to Laura Ingalls Wilder via Vietnam.

Cured

Cured by Nathalia Holt
–Berlin patients. painstakingly researched and explained.

fallen beauty

Fallen Beauty by Erika Robuck
–Robuck imagines the connection between poet Edna St. Vincent Millay and a seamstress in her small town. Robuck conducted impeccable research and allowed Millay’s vibrant spirit, sensuality and creative force to come forth on the page.

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FALLEN BEAUTY: review and giveaway

fallen beauty

FALLEN BEAUTY by Erika Robuck (NAL Trade Paperback; 978-0-451-41890-6; March 4, 2014; $16)

Novel Synopsis:

In 1928 upstate New York, unwed mother Laura Kelley struggles to support her daughter at her failing dress shop, just steps away from the girl’s father, the man Laura loves but can never have. Responsible for her family, she has put her dreams of going to New York City to become a costume designer on indefinite hold. When Laura’s brother-in-law breaks his marriage vows by having a brief affair with famous local, married poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, anger spurs her to approach Millay in her nearby Berkshire estate, Steepletop. Laura finds herself accepting a job to sew costumes for Millay’s tour of enormously popular poetry readings. As Laura is increasingly drawn into Millay’s no-holds-barred world of free love and uninhibited artistic expression, she becomes privy to shocking secrets and cruel betrayals. And when Millay’s private torments reach a crisis point, Laura must choose between her loyalty to her family and the impulse to pursue her own artistic dreams.

Review:

Erika Robuck’s best novel yet. It’s a tough one to put down. Loved the characters, the descriptiveness. The story’s mainly Laura’s yet told through both Laura’s and Millay’s perspectives. It’s an old story told often about a small-town woman stuck in a bad position with ties to this little town and its judgmental ways. She’s an outcast. Then she strikes a wealthy, famous poet’s fancy. Laura’s looks, personality and talent draw Millay to her. But it’s not simple because Laura believes she’s not like her neighbors yet proves to be exactly like them at first toward Millay. She’s completely critical and apprehensive. Robuck over-uses the term witch in reference to Millay and other townspeople who are different. Laura also acts so typically for a single, unmarried woman, shamed and all. So at times the novel grinds to cliched, predictable moments. The mysterious, handsome sculptor who shows up in town one day to create the virgin statue? Any astute reader knows he’ll end up with Laura from moment one. Scarlet-lettered woman. Brooding stranger. Check and check. Too transparent for me.

“I thought of Millay with a growing awe, and some jealousy. Whether she was a witch or not, her words meant a lot to many people, including me. I felt pride at the thought of creating for this woman child. A woman who needed a well of experience from which to draw her words.”

I didn’t know much about Millay beyond her poetry, and I’m sadly limited on my knowledge of that, and by the last page I loved her bohemian spirit so much that I plan to go out and buy one of her poetry collections this week. Robuck conducted impeccable research and manages to truly allow Millay’s vibrant spirit, sensuality and creative force to come forth on the page. In the beginning Laura feels threatened by the beguiling poet who lives such an open lifestyle in her castle on the hill. Millay throws parties and takes lovers as does her husband. It feeds her creativity and artistic expression. It’s their lifestyle. Laura’s closed off because she’s ostracized by a town that judges her and her decision to raise a daughter on her own after her affair ending badly. Would have liked more Edna St. Vincent Millay and less Laura Kelley but truly appreciated the manner in which Robuck twisted together these women’s stories. It worked. They meshed beautifully. Loved any creative moments–about Laura designing costumes and gowns for Millay and all parts about Millay’s poetry. How wonderful to read about two creative women who share similar experiences and forge a friendship while overcoming challenges and embracing their commonalities and strengths rather than being forced apart by small-town prejudices.

RATING: ****/5

About the Author:

Erika Robuck has appeared on the Southern Independent Bestseller List for Call Me Zelda and is the critically acclaimed author of Hemingway’s Girl. Born and raised in Annapolis, Maryland, Erika was inspired by the cobblestones and old churches. She is a contributor to the popular fiction blog, Writer Unboxed, and maintains her own historical fiction blog called Muse. For more information please visit www.erikarobuck.com

Giveaway

NAL Trade Paperback has offered to send one of my readers with a valid U.S. Mailing address a copy of Fallen Beauty. To enter, please include your email address in the comment section and I will select one winner on March 15. I’ll email you for your mailing address. The publisher will then mail out a copy of the novel to you.

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STEELE INTERVIEWS: Erika Robuck

The engaging new novel from author Erika Robuck, CALL ME ZELDA, illuminates the fascinating and complicated Zelda Fitzgerald. Married to F. Scott Fitzgerald and a party girl in the 1920s, Zelda fought mental illness and thwarted creative endevours. See my review. Currently on a book tour, Erika took the time to answer a few questions.

Photo by Catherine Pelura of KC Photography

Photo by Catherine Pelura of KC Photography

Amy Steele: Why did you decide to write about Zelda Fitzgerald?

Erika Robuck: My research on Ernest Hemingway for my last novel, HEMINGWAY’S GIRL, led me to Zelda. His dislike of her intrigued me, so I wanted to find out about her for myself.

Amy Steele: What interests you about the women involved with well-known writers?

Erika Robuck: I’m curious about spouses who support and endure their artistic partners. It takes a special person to marry a creative man or woman, and the experiences in the relationship often shape or inform the work. It is what comes from that intimacy that fascinates me.

Amy Steele: Do you think Zelda truly had an untreated or misdiagnosed mental illness or do you think the relationship with F. Scott Fitzgerald pushed her to a breakdown?

Erika Robuck: I think it was a combination of factors. Scott’s alcoholism and Zelda’s place in history as a woman had something to do with her troubles, but from hearing voices, to vision issues, to suicide attempts, to family members’ suicides, there is compelling evidence that she did have mental illness. Contemporary psychiatrists say she may have been bipolar or manic depressive.

Amy Steele: Sometimes it seems in the novel that you place blame on Scott and not a chemical imbalance. What type of research about her condition did you find or complete?

call me zelda

Erika Robuck: I hoped to show that he aggravated her symptoms, but I do not wish to imply that he is the cause of her illness. The two of them were toxic for each other, but still had enormous love and loyalty for the other.

What most informed my portrayal of Zelda were the Fitzgerald papers at Princeton University: Zelda’s medical records, journals, letters, and various other documents were essential to my understanding of the Fitzgeralds at that time and place.

Amy Steele: How did Scott hinder Zelda’s treatment?

Erika Robuck: This is a hard question. He worked himself to death to keep her well cared for in reputable psychiatric clinics, and clearly loved her. That said, physicians’ requests to him to curb his drinking were resented or unheeded, he thwarted her attempts at creative expression at times, and could be abusive. It seemed to be a classic co-dependent relationship.

Amy Steele: How did Zelda and Scott go from being such a celebrated and popular couple to becoming so unhinged and insolvent?

Erika Robuck: Like any celebrity couple who indulges in excess, the party has to end at some point. Zelda’s mental collapse corresponded with the economic crash and depression. Scott’s stories about the problems of the rich went out of fashion as families struggled to feed their children. Scott’s alcoholism and Zelda’s increasingly troubling mental episodes hindered their ability to recover.

Amy Steele: Why did you want the narrator of CALL ME ZELDA to be a psychiatric nurse?

Erika Robuck: I needed a character who would be intimately connected to the Fitzgeralds, and I kept noticing the reference to nurses as companions and escorts. Zelda didn’t have many close female friends but formed strong attachments to some of her nurses, so it seemed like the most natural choice for a narrator.

Amy Steele: How did Anna’s tragic life help you tell Zelda’s story?

Erika Robuck: I needed a nurse who would bond with Zelda more than her other patients, so there had to be a deeper connection. That connection came through loss of a husband and daughter—one from mental illness, the other from the war. I wanted my character, however, to bring redemption to the story. Scott and Zelda’s story is so tragic, I needed balance.

Amy Steele: What do you like about writing historical fiction?

Erika Robuck: Reading and writing historical fiction is my passion. The greatest challenge is remaining faithful to historic timelines while weaving in the stories of my fictional characters. I love experiencing history through the emotions of compelling characters. It’s what I hope to bring to readers.

BOOK TOUR:

Sunday, June 9, 3pm, Concord Bookshop, Concord, MA

Monday, June 10, 7 pm, River Run Bookstore, NH

Thursday, June 13, 7 pm, Common Good Books, MN

Saturday, September 7, 11-2:30 pm, Author Reception hosted by the Metastatic Breast Cancer Assoc.

Thursday, September 26, 7 pm, Broadneck Library, MD

Tuesday, October 8, 10 am, Linthicum Women’s Association, MD

Tuesday, October 15, 10 am, Crofton Library Book Club, MD

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Call Me Zelda: book review

call me zelda

Call Me Zelda by Erika Robuck. Publisher: New American Library (May 2013). Historical fiction. Trade Paperback Original. 326 pages. ISBN 978-0-451-23992-1.

Zelda Fitzgerald’s become this mythical, magical spirited and elegant figure for the literary and Jazz age of the 1920s and 1930s. There’s been much written about her turbulent relationship with her husband F. Scott Fitzgerald. She served as a muse for characters in many of his novels. They partied and drank their way through Paris in their heyday before losing much of their fame and wealth. Zelda suffered from mental illness—schizophrenia, anxiety, depression– and needed to be institutionalized several times.

In her thoughtful, compelling novel Call Me Zelda, author Erika Robuck craftily utilizes psychiatric nurse Anna as the narrator in a brilliant mode of storytelling. Overlapping the stories of these women establishes a wonderfully contemplative novel on mental illness, empathy and women’s ability to transform despite setbacks. The author doesn’t put herself in Zelda’s place but in the place of a close confident or caretaker to Zelda. This effectively allows some distance to remain a bit impartial and perhaps less judgmental while still empathetic.

We meet Zelda Fitzgerald and her nurse at Phipps Psychiatric Clinic at Johns Hopkins University Hospital in 1932. Zelda quickly develops a bond with Anna which, despite several misunderstandings and separations, lasts until the end of Zelda’s life. Zelda leaves the clinic and Anna becomes her personal nurse. Her treatment gets a bit murky. The focus stays more on her relationship to Scott, her own writing and creative goals and desire for some independence from her husband.

“But maybe it was my selfish desire to be needed. Maybe it was their celebrity. Deep down I knew I longed for the blissful anonymity of becoming part of the something beautiful and tragic and even historic—like a single stroke of paint on a large and detailed landscape.”

Through dense imagery, Robuck establishes the fragmented, tormented marriage between writer and muse. Scott needed Zelda more than Zelda needed Scott or did they equally play off one another? A sycophant relationship. Both had affairs. Both came back to each other again and again. Both clearly loved each other. Both caused the other pain and heartache and worry. Of Scott, Zelda tells her doctor: “he thinks he should be enough for me. He needs me to orbit him. He wishes to pluck me from orbit when he needs me and then send me back once he’s used me up.”

I immensely enjoyed Robuck’s last historical fiction novel Hemingway’s Girl and her exhaustive research and nurture for her subject comes across in Call Me Zelda. Robuck lives in Annapolis, Maryland and there’s detailed description for the area in which Anna lives and Zelda receives much of her medical treatment during the novel. At first I became a bit confused when the focus shifted from Zelda to Anna. But then I became as interested in Anna’s life as Zelda’s and understood that the women’s lives were intertwined and an enjoyable story about Zelda needn’t be completely about Zelda to function.

RATING: ****

–review by Amy Steele

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from New American Library/Penguin.

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Entertainment Realm’s 20 Picks for Best Fiction of 2012 [11-20]

Making lists of my favorite books, music, films proves challenging every year. Thus I’m making a list of 20. To put it in perspective, I’ve read 90 books at this writing. I have a few in progress. Here are the one’s that I keep thinking about and recommending to others [If I reviewed it, I linked to the review]:

make it stay

11. Make It Stay by Joan Frank [Permanent Press]

divorce islamic style

12. Divorce Islamic Style by Amara Lakhous [Europa]

the lion is in

13. The Lion is In by Delia Ephron [Blue Rider Press]

beside the sea

14. Beside the Sea by Veronique Olmi [Tin House Books]

news from spain

15. The News from Spain by Joan Wickersham [Knopf]

hemingway's girl

16. Hemingway’s Girl by Erika Robuck [NAL, 2012]

threats

17. Threats by Amelia Gray [Farrar, Straus and Giroux]

miss_fuller

18. MISS FULLER by April Bernard [SteerForth Press]

Cascade

19. Cascade by Maryanne O’Hara [Viking]

unattended death

20. An Unattended Death by Victoria Jenkins [The Permanent Press]

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Book events in past week: Erika Robuck and Junot Diaz

This past week I attended two fantastic book events: Erika Robuck at Concord Bookstore on Sunday, September 16 and Junot Diaz at Brookline Booksmith on Wednesday, September 19.

Erika spoke about writing Hemingway’s Girl and answered a ton of questions from the audience. I’ve been following her on twitter for a while so it was great to meet her in person. Also met other tweeps Nicole Bernier and author Maryanne O’Hara [Cascade]. Very fun time.

Hemingway’s Girl
by Erika Robuck
Powells.com

If you haven’t been to a Junot Diaz reading, you must go. He did a reading for This is How You Lose Her at Brookline Booksmith at Coolidge Corner Theatre. He’s a riot. He answered a few questions, read a bit, answered a few more questions, read a bit more. Then he kissed EVERY person waiting in queue to meet him. That’s how you build a fan base and sell books!

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