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Extended Audio Sample Frances and Bernard, by Carlene Bauer Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (332 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Carlene Bauer Narrator: Angela Brazil, Stephen R. Thorne Publisher: Blackstone Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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Bernard Elliot, a poet, and Frances Reardon, a fiction writer, meet at a writers' colony during the summer of 1957 and begin a friendship and correspondence. Bernard, well-born and Harvard-educated, is gregarious, reckless, and passionate; Frances, the precocious daughter of a middle-class Irish family, is circumspect, wry, and more than a little judgmental. What starts as an exploration of faith eventually becomes a romance, a development complicated by Bernard's fall into manic depression and Frances' struggle to decide whether she is strong enough to weather the illness with him for the long term. 

The novel is anchored by two deeply imagined, fully inhabited characters who give voice to a love story that is as emotionally powerful as it is intellectually spirited.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “In Frances and Bernard Ms. Bauer attempts to walk a tricky line, giving her characters enough life of their own to seem more than historical glosses, while borrowing from Lowell and O’Connor’s stature so that Bernard and Frances become sufficiently formidable literary figures to carry the show.”

    New York Times

  • “Bauer…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.”

    Washington Post

  • “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

  • “Short but satisfying…Well written, engrossing, and succeeds in making Frances and Bernard’s shared interest in religion believable and their relationship funny, sweet, and sad. A lovely surprise.”

    Publishers Weekly (starred review)

  • “Bauer’s account of the ups and downs of Frances and Bernard’s relationship is by turns beautiful and heartbreaking. Her story is enhanced by the superb narration of Angela Brazil and Stephen Thorne…Both narrators excel at bringing forth the joy and pain in the letters…[their] delivery is natural and expressive, taking Bauer’s lovely work and making it a memorable listening experience.”AudioFile


  • “Gracefully written, Bauer’s fluid prose is at once solemn, tender, and witty as she ponders the cost and duty of art and love.”

    Library Journal

  • “A debut novel of stunning subtlety, grace, and depth…Bauer’s piercing novel is dynamic in structure, dramatic in emotion and event, and fierce in its inquiry into religion, love, and art.”


  • Winner of an AudioFile Earphones Award
  • Selected for the March 2013 Indie Next List
  • A BuzzFeed Books Pick of 49 Books You Really Need to Read

Listener Opinions

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 by Wendy Cosin | 2/20/2014

    " Novels constructed of letters are a sweet device, but this one didn't come close to working for me. Well-written, yes; as you would expect given that the letter-writers were writers. And I'm always up for a bit of mental illness. But I couldn't get past the christianity and god-stuff. I don't know enough about Flannery O'Conner and Robert Lowell to get the inspiration. So I just slogged on through. That said, I wouldn't be surprised if I went back and looked through for insightful comments about relationships. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Jane | 2/15/2014

    " I loved this book. Other reviewers found the banter between the main characters and the focus on religion off putting. I felt it caught a time and the character of this time beautifully. The story is told in letters, between Frances and Bernard, and between these two characters and several of their close friends. Reading this right before Beverly Donofrio's book Astonished, was interesting because both books highlight the place of Christian belief in the lives of modern people. Frances and Bernard was so beautifully, heartbreakingly crafted that it was far more compelling for me. Now I want to find out more about Robert Lowell and Flannery O'Connor on whom the novel is loosely based. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 by Elisabeth | 2/7/2014

    " Dry and uninteresting to me. The debates on religion held no interest to me, and actually were off putting. I see that this book is considered quite literary so don't allow my negative comments to influence you. Simply not for me. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Bethany | 1/18/2014

    " One of those perfect little gems that makes you read all of the other books in the hopes this will be one of them... Perfectly written, and utterly real, this book-told-in-letters charts the course of a relationship. But the book is more than just that, or perhaps ... it is exactly that, but so exquisite in its telling to actually be accurate. "

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