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A Severed Wasp

(Katherine Forrester Vigneras)

really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating details ·  3,089 ratings  ·  190 reviews
Katherine Forrester Vigneras, in a continuation of her story from The Small Rain, returns to New York City from Europe to retire. Now in her seventies, she encounters an old friend from her Greenwich Village days who, it turns out, is the former Bishop of New York. He asks Katherine to give a benefit concert at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. This leads to new demand ...more
Paperback, 388 pages
Published November 1st 1983 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published 1982)
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really liked it Average rating 4.00  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,089 ratings  ·  190 reviews

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Sep 18, 2017 rated it liked it
Wisdom, happiness, freedom and lots of other things are so desirable that we pursue them purely for themselves, though they are only attainable as means or by-products of our other, less tempting goals. They are like unexpected guests who come and go and never stay for long. The more one is trying to take hold of them, the more elusive and annoyed they become. So, when wisdom is the main goal in the story (or life) and everything else is subdued to it, there is a chance of converting a novel int ...more
Jun 09, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Melissa Robertson
Aug 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
"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
Sep 11, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2008books
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.
Mar 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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.

Jan 27, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction
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
Mar 01, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
It's interesting to think that L'Engle wrote this novel so many years after "The Small Rain". We see Katherine Vigneras retired from piano performance and settling in NYC, reconnecting with a friend from long ago and getting drawn into a psychological drama. Again, I am amazed at the way people approach the main character. It's typically like this: "Katherine/Katya/Madame Vigneras, I've only known you for a few days/two minutes/an hour but I feel like you know my soul and so I'm going to talk to ...more
Jun 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This isn't my usual fare, but I'd read other L'Engle books previously and the blurb on the back cover sounded interesting--and goodness am I glad I picked this up. The depth and complexity of the characters are marvellous, and the way their personalities intertwine in the plot is superb. But more than the excellent writing and likeable, human, characters, the... mindset (if you will) or perhaps atmosphere of the book is what really drew me in. I loved the wisdom and compassion shown by the chara ...more
Jul 26, 2010 rated it did not like it
Shelves: reviewed
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
Katharine Holden
Jun 04, 2011 rated it did not like it
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. ...more
Jan 03, 2009 rated it it was ok
I know I read this book before, but probably when I was too young to appreciate it, because I remember so little of it. I mainly remembered that it dealt, in part, with the children of grown-up Suzy from my favorite YA novel, "The Moon by Night." But I recently reread "The Small Rain" and decided to continue on with this.

Warning: Spoilers galore ahead.

Where to begin. First, Madeleine L'Engle has been my favorite author since I was a child. I devoured "Meet the Austins" and "The Moon by Night."
Jul 21, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: novels
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
Aug 24, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
For my thoughts on this, please see my review of The Small Rain. ...more
Feb 16, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book was tacky to say the least. And Katherine Vigneras, the protagonist, became too much of a saint to remain credible. I am disappointed.
Jul 20, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literature
Though you could read this as a standalone, I'm glad I read the first Katherine Forrester book, The Small Rain, before I read this. The Small Rain is L'Engle's first published novel and a bildungsroman, and A Severed Wasp, published almost 40 years later, revisits L'Engle's first protagonist at the end of her career as a world-famous pianist.

It was so interesting to see L'Engle's style mature, and fascinating to see her write about a young woman with a young woman's perspective, and then to revi
Jan 12, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, adult
This is very good if you like Madeleine L’Engle (and I don’t mean a Wrinkle in Time, which is kind of it’s own thing), and if you, as I did, grew up reading the Young Unicorns and wondering what the heck it was all about (because it’s a very odd book, especially when the other Austins’ books are so normal) you will find in this an adult version of almost the same story. I like this better, but it is awfully similar in a lot of ways, which gives me an odd feeling, as if me and the Young Unicorns ...more
Nov 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Interesting read!

So enjoyed this counterpoint to the Small Rain. Lovely read. Interesting to follow the characters late in life. Soothing. Didn’t want it to end, but thought the end was very fitting.
Mike Barker
Feb 01, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: light-stuff
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
Austen to Zafón
Jun 14, 2009 rated it liked it
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
Dec 05, 2017 rated it it was ok
Got about 80-ish% through and have not picked it back up in months, so am probably not going to finish. I don't usually review unfinished books, but, unless something really amazing happens in the last couple of pages, I can assure you you're not missing much. I feel like I have an unusually high tolerance for so-called "slow" books, because I enjoy rich language, setting, introspection, etc. Unfortunately, this is the single slowest book I've ever read, and I finally couldn't take it anymore. T ...more
Jun 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
One of my favorite L'Engle books, which is surprising because the first 1/3 was slow and I could barely get through it without falling asleep. The more I got into Katherine's psyche and her past, though, the more attached I became. I loved how richly developed even the smallest of characters were, and the way things came together to form a community.

A lot of the plot points (and the setting) reminded me of one of the Austin family books (and Emily is mentioned) but I liked the way this book han
Jul 06, 2016 rated it liked it
I love L'Engle so much, and this was written beautifully, but it took me forever because I just couldn't get beneath the surface of the prose. I didn't realize it was a sequel--maybe that has something to do with it. ...more
One of L'Engle's attempts at writing for grown ups. Never hits the stellar nature of her Wrinkle In Time series for the younger reader. ...more
Cherisa B
Oct 05, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2019
Memory, forgiveness, love. A wonderful little read.
Jun 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed reading this book, but didn't love it. I couldn't fully relate to a single one of the characters, but I appreciated the themes of reflection, contextual family (in this case, the people you are thrown together with in life rather than your blood relations), and some possible social and political situations I had never before imagined. Although I enjoyed spending time with Madame Vigneras, I hated how all of the other characters, especially Felix, just talked at her for ages while she n ...more
Ann Boytim
Aug 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is the second book featuring Katherine who has returned to the US from living in Europe. Katherine now in her seventies is now widowed and was married to her mentor and composer husband Justin for many years. In her past Katherine was put in prison and her husband sent to a prisoner of war camp. Justin was originally Katherine's piano teacher but after his hands were broken in the POW camp he became a composer and no longer was able to play but continued to push Katherine in her career. Kat ...more
Terry Southard
Mar 15, 2021 rated it liked it
This was a Christmas gift from a friend from New York. While I had read L'Engele's A Wrinkle in Time and perhaps its sequel, it's been many years and I was interested in her adult novels. This was good, but I didn't consider it great. The story of Katherine, a concert pianist, as she looks back on her life from her position as a newly retired person. She has returned "home", though she really hasn't lived there in many years. She connects with an old friend, Felix, who was the Diocesan Bishop of ...more
Timothy Merrill
Apr 11, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Finished reading The Severed Wasp, a gruesome image, and I am not sure why L’Engle choose it for this delightful book. One definitely needs to read The Small Rain first, or this book is more difficult to follow, because the events of the first book are woven throughout the narrative of this book. Moreover, without TSR, this book might seem tedious.

There is some suspense that begins to appear midway through, and it concerns the anonymous and hateful phone calls Madame Vigneras and a friend are r
Mar 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a sequel to The Small Rain. Katherine is now an elderly woman, widowed, with grandchildren. She has retired from concert touring and returns to her house in New York City, where she rents some rooms to others. Those that figure in the story are a doctor, Mimi Oppenheimer, and a young couple in the basement apartment. Felix, whom she knew well in her youth and who figures largely in The Small Rain, is now an Episcopalian bishop; he draws her into the group of people who live in the Close ...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

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Katherine Forrester Vigneras (2 books)
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