Bosworth, Sheila 1950-
BOSWORTH, Sheila 1950-
PERSONAL: Born 1950, in New Orleans, LA; married; children: Allison, Charlotte Jane. Education: Sophie Newcomb College, Tulane University, B.A. Hobbies and other interests: Reading.
ADDRESSES: Home—Covington, LA. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Louisiana State University Press, P.O. Box 25053, Baton Rouge, LA 70894-5053.
Almost Innocent (novel), Simon and Schuster (New York, NY), 1984.
Slow Poison (novel), Knopf (New York, NY), 1992.
Contributor to A World Unsuspected: Portraits of Southern Childhood, Center for Documentary Photography/Duke University (Chapel Hill, NC), 1987.
SIDELIGHTS: Southern writer Sheila Bosworth writes novels set in her native territory of Louisiana. The 1984 Almost Innocent is a tale of a life-long love affair and uses Bosworth's hometowns—New Orleans and Covington, Louisiana—as settings. In her 1992 Slow Poison, Bosworth once again returns to New Orleans for a story of three sisters during the 1950s and 1960s. A contributor for Contemporary Southern Writers noted that both novels "create a world so enchanting that it is all the more heartbreaking when things go dreadfully wrong."
In Almost Innocent Constance Alexander elopes with her suitor, Rand Calvert, despite the protests of her judge father. Rand, a painter and liberal, is not the ideal of a southern gentleman that Judge Alexander had in mind for his daughter. The story of the long and unlikely love between Constance and Rand is narrated by their love child, Clay-Lee Calvert. As D. G. Myers noted in the New York Times Book Review, "she watches passion turn into need and then into worldly desire or into pity and then helplessness." Myer found this debut novel "graceful and understated," and wrote that Bosworth "writes with quiet assurance."
With Slow Poison Bosworth presents a "bitter-sweet episodic novel," according to a reviewer for Publishers Weekly, that "pierces Southern manners and mores with fierce tenderness." Writer Rory Cade is called back home to Covington, Louisiana, from her New York book tour with news that someone close to her is dying. Accompanying her on the journey is former lover and now famous journalist Johnny Killelea, who induces Rory to tell the turbulent story of her exotic family on the equally turbulent flight back to Louisiana. As Time critic Emily Mitchell noted, "the slow poison of the title is booze; it is also the ecstasy of love." The Cade family—three sisters and a father—has much of both in its history, and Rory recounts all of these tales as the flight progresses, and it is her voice that carries the novel, a sometimes risky technique. Jonathan Yardley, writing in the Washington Post, noted that "part of the risk is that Bosworth relies on little more than the strength of her own voice and intelligence to bring the reader to the tale and keep him there." For Yardley, however, reader patience "will be rewarded" with a "cast of characters that is interesting and appealing as a whole—as, that is, a family—and as discrete individuals."
Not all reviewers were equally charmed by this Southern atmosphere. Gene Lyons, for example, complained in Entertainment Weekly of the "hyperbolic Southern swamps" of some of the writing, and that "generically speaking, Slow Poison belongs to the Scamps & Tramps school of Southern fiction." Lyons further noted that though Bosworth has "a vivid style and an emotional intensity that often make up for her sins," still the novel "reads at times like satire, at other times like a Harlequin romance turned sour."
Other reviewers praised Slow Poison more highly. Mitchell felt that Bosworth "evokes her home state and its people with elegiac grace and gusts of humor," and that the author "measures out life's sorrow in equal proportion to its sweetness." Drawing parallels to the work of Southern writer Walker Percy, who also hailed from Covington, Louisiana, Los Angeles Times Book Review contributor Winston Groom observed that Bosworth "appears ready to take up the mantle of [Percy] . . . himself." Groom further noted that Bosworth "does a splendid job of irradiating the murky truths of an old southern family in a cautionary tale of love, hate, pathos and redemption that would make an old master like Percy pretty proud."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Contemporary Southern Writers, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1999.
Entertainment Weekly, April 17, 1992, Gene Lyons, review of Slow Poison, p. 52.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, March 15, 1992, Winston Groom, review of Slow Poison, p. 2.
New Orleans Magazine, August, 1995, "Persona: Sheila Bosworth," p. 15.
New York Times Book Review, December 30, 1984, D. G. Myers, review of Almost Innocent, p. 16.
Publishers Weekly, January 27, 1992, review of Slow Poison, p. 89.
Time, March 23, 1992, Emily Mitchell, review of Slow Poison, p. 67.
Washington Post, February 26, 1992, Jonathan Yardley, review of Slow Poison, p. C2.
Louisiana State University Press Web site,http://www.lsu.edu/ (November 3, 2004), "Sheila Bosworth."*