Newlyn, Lucy. William and Dorothy Wordsworth: All in Each Other. Oxford Univ. Dec. 2013. 360p. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780199696390. $34.95. LIT
Newlyn (English, Oxford Univ.; The Cambridge Companion to Coleridge) provides an illuminating and extensively researched study of the relationship of the English Romantic poet William Wordsworth (1770–1850) and his sister Dorothy (1771–1855). The impressive list of primary materials Newlyn culled from includes Dorothy’s journals, William’s memoirs and classic works, and letters between the siblings. One of the book’s most admirable elements is how Newlyn gives equal weight to her subjects’ writings. Her focus is on their collaboration, which she beautifully describes as communal and creative. Newlyn examines the importance of several shared aspects of the innovative partnership, such as the profound meaning of home, the significance of nature and walking, and the crucial role of conversation. William and Dorothy were so intertwined in their writing that Newlyn finds it difficult to determine the original author of some works. VERDICT This unparalleled examination of the Wordsworth siblings makes this title an essential addition to English literature collections. Owing to its research and writing style, the book is primarily for an academic audience.
Shillinglaw, Susan. Carol and John Steinbeck: Portrait of a Marriage. Univ. of Nevada. (Western Literature). 2013. 352p. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780874179309. $34.95; ebk. ISBN 9780874179316. LIT
John Steinbeck’s 1939 novel The Grapes of Wrath is dedicated to his first wife, Carol Henning. Carol and John were married from 1930 to 1943, and as editor Shillinglaw (former director, Steinbeck Ctr., San Jose State Univ.; English, San Jose State Univ.; A Journey into Steinbeck’s California) contends, the Pulitzer Prize–winning Grapes is their “shared creation.” She argues that Carol was a much larger influence on the novelist’s life and work than has been previously acknowledged. In this lively, absorbing biography, she describes John’s and Carol’s families, the impact of friends and travel, and the creative process that culminated in John’s writing. Carol left few written records or letters, thus her life is portrayed here from previously unavailable scrapbooks, photographs, and poetry. John’s letters and papers allow the author to document his thoughts and feelings about Carol during their time together. Shillinglaw supplements this material through interviews with family members, close friends, and acquaintances and successfully defends her argument that John depended on Carol. VERDICT Recommended for Steinbeck enthusiasts as well as readers interested in 20th-century American novelists.