Carol Piasente is an award-winning writer who takes her themes from history, travel, and the hidden layers of the human heart. As a student of Kay Boyle’s, she has written a bio-fictional novel, UNTIL PARIS, about Kay’s tragic love affair with the poet/editor Ernest Walsh and her emergence as one of the leading authors of the modernist avant-garde.
“Kay Boyle was my muse and inspiration,” she says. Kay’s books and stories and a recently rediscovered cache of letters written to her by Kay, along with Kay’s notes on her manuscripts, served as a touchpoint through the process of bringing “the character” Kay Boyle alive to a new generation of readers.
When she’s not writing, Carol loves to travel and imagine the stories that have shaped the locales she visits. She shares with Kay Boyle a belief that with privilege comes responsibility.
"Oh, let me gather myself together,
Where are the pieces
quivering and staring and
that is all to be a part of me?"
- Robert McAlmon
UNTIL PARIS is a bio-fictional novel about Kay Boyle's emergence as one of the most promising talents of the fabled Lost Generation. It's fitting to open this brief summary with Robert McAlmon's poem, which I first encountered in Kay Boyle's autobiography, Being Geniuses Together. Just as it was for Kay, the words of the poem became something of an anthem for me as a young writer struggling to find and trust my fictive voice. Now it's given me the title for my novel about Kay's tragic love affair with Ernest Walsh, poet and publisher of the avant grade literary magazine, This Quarter. More than a lover, Walsh mentored Kay, publishing her work and introducing her to the artists and writers who were revolutionizing 20th Century arts, culture and literature.
Kay Boyle famously "knew everyone and saw it all." A complicated woman - passionate, wildly romantic, reckless in love - Kay was also fiercely ambitious. Her meteoric rise as the "Golden Girl" of the literary ex-pat world was no accident. It was, instead, the result of hard work, an unrelenting cultivation of those who could help her career and a genius for language and character revelation in even the smallest of details.
Kay Boyle's life and career as an author of more than 30 highly acclaimed volumes of fiction, poetry and essays; activist; teacher; wife and mother have been documented in biographies and the recent publication of her letters. But for me, the story of Kay and Ernest's love and her early successes can best be told in novel form, where it's possible to freely describe the sensory details and imagine the interior moments that reveal emotional truth.
As ISOLA D'ELBA opens, World War II is newly ended, and all of Europe is shell-shocked. A grieving Madeleine York arrives on Isola d’Elba. Her fiancé, Thomas was killed in the Allied invasion of the island, and she is desperate to forgive him for not being able to save himself. By coming to Elba, she hopes to to learn more about the cloudy circumstances of his death. She's accompanied by Thomas's young son, orphaned, frail, and left to her to mother.
But the island’s residents are wary of strangers, hostile to questions about what happened during the war, and Madeleine must finally accept that its mysteries – a body on the beach, two murdered girls and a third missing, the fate of her dear Thomas – will not be revealed. While she has come to mourn, in the end it’s Thomas's son she must save.
Set against a backdrop of the unrest of the Sixties, THE SUFFERING WE CAUSED, is no romantic retelling of those turbulent times, but a tale of abandonment and loss, and the lasting consequences of youthful recklessness.
The novel opens with Caroline’s escape from the charismatic and dangerous Hartman. They are fugitives, on the run after a bomb exploded and Caroline’s closest friend killed. But where will she go? She cannot go home – the police will be looking for her there. And Hartman will be tracking her.
On her journey “underground,” Caroline survives by what Hartman has taught her about leave-taking, “Don’t look back.” But she’s haunted by every detail of what she’s done – the trip to Mexico to buy explosives, her betrayal of her friend who was killed and the way she abandoned her beloved Aunt Rose, who raised her from infancy. When she meets and falls in love with J.C., and has his son, she thinks she is saved. But when threatened with discovery, she deserts them, too, and flees.
After fifteen years of staying away , when she realizes her son may be in danger, it's time to come home, even if it means facing up to her past and atoning for her sins.