A Severed Wasp
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A Severed Wasp (Vigneras)

3.95 of 5 stars 3.95  ·  rating details  ·  1,933 ratings  ·  102 reviews
L'Engle weaves the worlds of music, the claustrophobic world of a cathedral close and the often threatening street life of New York into a remarkable story.
Paperback, 388 pages
Published November 1st 1983 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published 1982)
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Liz
This is, by far, my very favorite L'Engle piece. Since she was a family friend, I grew up reading all of her books since they were what I always got for birthdays, Christmas and anniversaries of baptism. As I grew older, I was given books like this one, or A Live Coal in the Sea, and I fell in love all over again. This, more than the others, has been a staple in the readings of my life. I read it over and over again, perpetually amazed at the magic that comes from her words. I feel so at home in...more
Justin
How is this not considered a classic at the very least?? This novel blew me away. Sadly, Madeleine L'Engle has restrictively been recognized as the noteworthy writer of "A Wrinkle in Time." She is very prolific, and has written many more masterpieces than just that book. Hopefully, all her readers will someday read this book. There is so much richness in this book that it deserves to be read more than once to fully grasp the underlying meaning of the book. Basically, this book reminds me of an I...more
PF
Mar 23, 2012 PF rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: fiction
One of the great pleasures for me in reading this book is the chapter by chapter unfolding of the petals of a great blossom, the way perspective and points of view shift on astounding plot turns revealing completely new ways of looking at the cast of characters and the rest of the book. And this KEEPS happening thoughout the entire book! To write a review full of spoilers would take away the potential for that pleasure from future readers, so please excuse me if I avoid plot details entirely.

Thi...more
Austen to Zafón
I don't know why this says it's an Austin Family book; it isn't. It's a sequel to A Small Rain. Although this book, written much later in L'Engle's life, is more mature in style, I liked it less than A Small Rain, which was her first published book. The story moves from Europe to New York and centers around a church there, and I think that I'm just not that interested in the new setting. I read it because I really wanted to see Katherine, the main character, grown up. I still would recommend it...more
Melissa Wheatley
"A Severed Wasp" kept me engaged and I read it quickly. There were certainly some wonderful lines in this book, and continuing Katherine's story is a treat, but I do agree with other reviews that mentioned that at times the soap opera melodrama is heaped on.

I read this immediately after devouring "The Small Rain" and enjoyed seeing where the years had taken both L'Engle as a writer and Madame Vigneras as a character... both matured and deepened in the 40+ years that passed between the two novel...more
Kate
Um, WTF ML'E? This has a bizarre soap opera storyline. So much craziness without a real purpose for it. She clearly has all kinds of things to work out with homosexuality...and race. And these to Katherine Forrester Vigneras books are none too feminist-friendly. Yikes and yikes.

Here's a quote that reflects a major theme (unhappy jealous women) in the book: "Unhappy women often want to make their sons hate their fathers, in order to keep on possessing them, even beyond the grave. You have just se...more
Rachel
If a student turned writing like this in, I'd be proud. If I had never heard of the author, I would probably put it down. From Madeleine L'Engle, it's disappointing (and oh, does it hurt to say that). I'm only pushing through out of loyalty to her. This book would probably make a dynamite short story, but it just takes so long for everything to happen! It's a little soap-opera-y too, like too many sensationalist subplots. I do like the characterization. Whatever. I'm not quite done, but I know t...more
Beth
This was an uglier read than I remembered. Some plot points were horrifying. The writing was classic L'Engle, always a plus, but the darkness dragged this book down. This is a personal perception - others may not mind the darkness - but L'Engle, to me, was a writer who saw hope in everything, who stressed that cliche silver lining. That clear-eyed joy in all things was what drew me to her works.

Other negatives: the plot wrapped up too hastily and the plethora of immensely talented people became...more
Virginia
I kept reading this one hoping I would like it more than I did - it was very slow and measured, and everyone sat around at drank tea a lot. And ate dinner. And went to dinner parties. And took long baths. And in dribs and drabs in between all that there was some plot. But only a little bit. And very understated. A lot of people on Amazon loved this book, but it was just not for me.
Kristi
Having loved L'Engle's Wrinkle in Time (and related stories), I devoured A Small Rain and A Severed Wasp over a weekend. I have to say that I enjoyed the grownup Katherine more than I did the helpless youthful Katherine. Her character is graceful, composed, elegant, but still human. The New York atmosphere gave it additional romance, all of that tenseness and heat of the city.
Katharine Holden
Rather silly novel overflowing with more tragedies than a year's worth of soap opera scripts. All the characters speak in lengthy paragraphs and can divine a person's level of musical talent by looking into his or her eyes.
Margaret
For my thoughts on this, please see my review of The Small Rain.
Lexie
Quotes:

How does one survive even the normal viscissitudes of life without a driving passion and its concomitant demanding work?

"Once we recognize that we're broken, we have a chance to mend."

"I suppose darkness doesn't go where things are already dark."

This nightmare of reality had less coherence than a dream.

Thawing hurts ...

"... if I were to come over to you and put my arms around you and tell you I was sorry you feel poorly, you would stiffen up like a little ramrod. It would be like putting...more
Jes
And interesting read. About halfway through it, the plot was getting mysterious and good. Up until then, I wasn't sure the flashbacks would be able to carry the story. I'm glad I read this novel. Sometimes it's a good thing to revisit characters. The Small Rain made a profound impact on me the first time I read it. As an artist, I wrestled with thoughts of total abandonment to the arts, depression, moodiness and all the things Katherine battles.

I am glad to see that L'Engle has left traces of th...more
Mike Barker
Ever since I was in divinity school I have heard about L'Engle's books. I've managed to track down a few at the library, not necessarily the really theological ones. Such was the case with the present book. I picked it up because it seemed to deal with a couple of themes/images/locales that appealed to me: classical music, a cathedral and church-y people, etc. I'm not sure if it's because the book is older than much of what I read (copyright early 1980's) or if I just am not all that drawn into...more
Helen
I've read this twice before and it was interesting to read the marginalia I wrote the last time. I have a number of problems with this book and I think they have to do with the number of ideas and things MS L'Engle wanted to put in this story. She obviously loved the cathedral and its close so she took all the people she liked and piled them into the setting, created a mystery and problem and let them interact until she was ready to pull the plug. Everything gets solved too easily at the end and...more
Laura
Knowing next to nothing about classical piano, I spent time while reading resolving to correct this and to find copies of some of the pieces mentioned. (Obviously, the compositions by Tom and Justin won't be found, but Bach and Scarlatti will be.)

Katherine is still the relatively contained, reactive person we met in A Small Rain, 50 years older and presumably wiser. She's retired to New York, widowed, and looking forward to a peaceful life. Of course you know that that's simply not going to happ...more
Melody
This book is concerned with the unreasonableness of love, and how love transforms. The characters are deep, complex and self-aware, for the most part. One complaint I have is that L'Engle has some gay characters in this book, but it's clear that she just doesn't *get* it.

This is a sequel to one of her earliest novels, The Small Rain, and reading them one after the other brings a few things about L'Engle into sharp focus. The foremost is how much she grew as a writer in the years between these b...more
Christopherseelie
A retired concert pianist gets injected into the intrigue of a Episcopalian cathedral in 1970s New York City when the former Bishop with whom she had a brief romance in their youth before WW2 asks her to put on a benefit concert. What follows is half remembrance of things past, half gossip-driven mystery. The scenes from one reflects on the events of the other as the protagonist attempts to put her house of memories in order and uncover the snake in the grass among the closed community of clergy...more
Lisa
I think I read this several years ago without realizing that there was an earlier book about the main character, Katherine. The earlier book, The Small Rain features Katherine from childhood into her late teens. L'Engle wrote that as a young woman just out of college. She waited some decades before returning to the character in this book, and when we meet Katherine she is now retiring from a piano career. The wisdom that Katherine brings to the younger characters and when reflecting on her own l...more
Swallowfeather
An excellent book. After reading L'Engle's teen novels as a teen, it was a joy to discover her adult novels as an adult. She has an unsparing vision that is not afraid to look terrible subjects straight in the eye, and a hope like bedrock underlying it all. That's my kind of writer.

The only things that detracted from this book for me were the mystery sub-plot--I didn't really understand why it was there, and it seemed like the wrong type of sub-plot for a book like this--and the fact that I coul...more
Eliza
Highly recommended. I picked this up at the Brown Elephant, being a longtime fan of L'Engle's young adult novels. I realized that this was actually the sequel to A Small Rain, but decided to read it anyway. Now I'm going to go back and read that when I can make it to the library.

Anyway, I couldn't put this book down. I even read it while standing on a crowded train and was fully engrossed the entire time. I think it's a combination of the following factors:

-main character is a musician
-all of t...more
Susannah
I'm currently on a returning to Madeleine L'Engle kick and this was a book I meant to read when I was 12 but didn't (long story). I really liked the main character in this book and learning about her life in snippets, like the unfolding of a mystery. There is somewhat of a mystery at the heart of the book, but it is less a whodunit and more of a contemplation on the mystery of self-forgiveness, a theme which I'm fond of. From a religious studies perspective, there are a few debatably bad represe...more
Jen
Set around 5 0 years later, this is the sequal to "A small Rain" which I read a few weeks ago. We meet pianist Katherine Forrrster as a recently retired grande dame of music coming to terms with her life past and present. I'm a sucker for the kinds of passionately principled characrters in a Madeleine L'Engle book, so I love this novel. Even the youth are gaga about classical music in a way that is incomprehenible to me, but makes me kind of wish it were so. Its also funny to see how some of the...more
Melissa
The presentation of 50 years Katherine's life in random memories conjured by present events throughout the book was quite enjoyable. I liked that they weren't chronological. I also appreciated the character who was selected to reenter her life in her eighth decade. I really wasn't enamored with the new characters though, and would have loved a bit more follow up on especially Manya and Charles. There was much left to explore in both of those characters. The drama surrounding the cathedral that i...more
Guy David
Never do I finish a book and want immediately to read it again. That was my response to this novel. The aching beauty in this story took my breath away and had me in tears so many times during the read. A quick warning...it is a very adult book. Despite my experiences with people as a nurse and a traveler, I was still shocked and surprised by some of the character's actions. However, don't let that dissuade you from picking up this story. It is an incredible tale of reflection at life's end. The...more
Alyssa
Madeleine L'Engle delivers a touching but brutally frank novel that probes the depths of human suffering, relationships and hope. The skillful use of flashbacks connects the not-so-quiet retired life of Madame Katherine Vigneras to her rich but often painful past. Similar to her other novels, themes of this book include family ties, multiple layers of connection between the characters and healing. However, none of the narrative or themes feel forced, but are allowed to develop naturally as the p...more
Laura
i read this book years ago, probably when i was a teenager, because it had a connection with "and both were young" (another all-time favorite l'engle book). i admit, i didn't like it very much then. but recently, i picked up "the small rain" and really enjoyed it. so, i though i'd give this one another chance. and i loved it. i think as i've grown up a little more, lived though and seen some challenging stuff in life, i have a deeper appreciation for this book. i loved the real-ness of her chara...more
Linda
Katherine Forrester Vigneras, a famous concert pianist, returns to New York City to retire and come to terms with her memories. She has had a life of much joy and sadness. An old friend who is a retired bishop asks her to give a benefit concert for the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. This leads to new friendships, and eventually a frightening web of dark secrets and threats among these people. Along the way she is able to resolve old conflicts within herself and come to peace. One thing I like...more
Judith
Dec 29, 2013 Judith rated it 4 of 5 stars Recommends it for: Renita
The continuation of her novel "The Small Rain" with Katherine Forrester, now Madame Vigneras. This story is told in flashback form about her years after returning to Paris and Justin Vigneras to continue her music studies. Detailed writing with historical references - profound, happy and heartrending - at times I cried. I know I will reread these books again.

I read many of the other reviews of this book and it appears that people are trying to compare it to her other books. This book cannot be...more
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Madeleine L'Engle was an American writer best known for her Young Adult fiction, particularly the Newbery Medal-winning A Wrinkle in Time and its sequels A Wind in the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, and Many Waters. Her works reflect her strong interest in modern science: tesseracts, for example, are featured prominently in A Wrinkle in Time, mitochondrial DNA in A Wind in the Door, organ regener...more
More about Madeleine L'Engle...
A Wrinkle in Time (Time, #1) A Wind in the Door (Time, #2) A Swiftly Tilting Planet (Time, #3) Many Waters (The Time Quintet, #4) A Ring of Endless Light (Austin Family, #5)

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