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Publisher's Weekly
Elena Franklin is an acclaimed novelist and critic whose career mirrors much of the history of American letters over the past 50 years. She is also the medium for Cook's reflections on ''the fruits of a considered life,'' which, as envisioned here, seem to flourish in an exclusively literary grove. Elena's brother, William, who tells her story, writes on English poetry; one of her lovers produces books of social relevance, another, volumes of Southern history. When not engaged in researching a book, the characters are off writing one, or talking about their work in a polemic manner. The points thus raised will ring true for those familiar with the exigent nature of the artistic process. Unfortunately, the very qualities which support creative endeavorsdispassion, a need for solitude and a tendency to internalize emotiontend to make such writers poor subjects for fiction. Or, as one character remarks, ''There are great works of literature, but no great ones about it.'' Cook wrote Blood Innocents and The Orchids.

Library Journal
Elena is a leisurely, elegant novel in the form of a biography, the story of an esteemed American novelist, a reclusive intellectual whose life was an exquisitely ''considered'' one. Born in 1910 in Standhope, Connecticut, to a ''wandering father'' and a mother who died insane, Elena Franklin won acclaim in New York as the young author of New England Maid. Her love affair with a left-wing journalist in the 1930s and her book about the Depression; expatriation in Paris; and her later years with her last lover, Southern historian Jason Findley, are the facts of a life less defined by events than by the deliberate development of a consciousness. After Elena's death and the publication of her biography, her older brother William, also a writer, tells the real story of her legendary life and the ''invisible solitude that held her,'' a nostalgic narrative that reflects 70 years of social and literary history. Janet Wiehe, P.L. of Cincinnati & Hamilton Cty .

Genre: Mystery

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