Feldman, Ellen (Bette) 1941-
FELDMAN, Ellen (Bette) 1941-
a.k.a. Katherine Walden, Morrow (New York, NY), 1982.
Conjugal Rites, Morrow (New York, NY), 1986.
Looking for Love, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1990.
Too Close for Comfort, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1994.
Rearview Mirror, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1996.
God Bless the Child, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1996.
Lucy, Norton (New York, NY), 2003.
The Boy Who Loved Anne Frank, Norton (New York, NY), 2005.
novels; under pseudonym elizabeth villars
The Rich Girl, Coward, McCann & Geoghegan (New York, NY), 1977.
The Very Best People, Coward, McCann & Geoghegan (New York, NY), 1979.
One Night in Newport, Doubleday (Garden City, NY), 1981.
The Normandie Affair, Doubleday (Garden City, NY), 1982.
Adam's Daughters, Doubleday (Garden City, NY), 1984.
Wars of the Heart, Doubleday (Garden City, NY), 1987.
Lipstick on His Collar, Warner Books (New York, NY), 1990.
Also contributor of articles to American Heritage Magazine. Contributor of book reviews to newspapers, including New York Times, Newsday, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, and Baltimore Sun. Has ghostwritten several fiction and nonfiction books for professionals and celebrities.
SIDELIGHTS: Ellen Feldman writes novels under her own name and has formerly written under the pseudonym Elizabeth Villars. Feldman published her first novel, a.k.a. Katherine Walden, in 1982. Her heroine—also called Kate, Kitty, and Kat—has no identity of her own. She is a ghostwriter and has been having a long-term clandestine affair with a married man. Her four closest friends dispense advice at every available opportunity about how she should be living her life. When the unexpected happens, Katherine's world is turned upside-down. Both critics and readers found a.k.a. Katherine Walden hilarious, and it set the stage for future novels.
Too Close for Comfort is a psychological thriller featuring Isabel and her psychiatrist husband, Pete. When objects mysteriously begin to disappear from their apartment, Isabel suspects someone from her husband's practice. While Pete considers her fears unfounded, Isabel is convinced she is being stalked by an obsessed patient. Despite finding the ending uneventful, a Publishers Weekly reviewer considered the author "convincing in her gradually emerging portrait of a psychopath and in her criticism of medical and legal systems that allow such an individual to remain untreated."
Rearview Mirror features another psychological thriller, this time focusing on an insecure freelance journalist named Hallie Fields. A Publishers Weekly reviewer felt that in this book Feldman "draws the reader expertly into the dramas of Hallie's" life, including a romance with one of her subjects and new revelations from a childhood friend. The same reviewer reported that while "Feldman's narrative works as a social commentary," the author had trouble generating suspense and that "the narrative suffers from an erratic rhythm." A Mostly Fiction reviewer praised the book, however, saying "Feldman's imagery is impeccable." The same reviewer went on to claim, "This is one of the books you can picture as a movie, but Hollywood probably couldn't do it justice."
God Bless the Child features former television news reporter Bailey Bender, who leaves busy Manhattan for the serenity of the Hamptons. However, the media invade the quiet community after someone is murdered. At the same time, Bailey searches to find the baby she gave up for adoption twenty years ago. "Bailey's role in the adoption slowly and cleverly comes to light, and so does a surprising connection to the murder and the prosperous family involved," observed Toni Hyde in Booklist. A Publishers Weekly reviewer also praised Feldman's "neatly parallel subplots" that "trace the relationships between mothers and daughters, fathers and sons."
Based on extensive research and interviews with family members, Lucy is a novel about the love affair that almost derailed twentieth-century cultural history. It is the story of Franklin D. Roosevelt and his enduring love for his wife's social secretary, Lucy Mercer Rutherfurd. The story is told from Rutherfurd's viewpoint and chronicles the affair beginning with the time Lucy is hired as Eleanor's personal assistant. While Lucy and Roosevelt are attracted to each other, nothing happens initially. It is not until war looms and Eleanor goes away with the children that they consummate their relationship. Roosevelt loves Lucy and wishes to divorce Eleanor, and when Eleanor finds Lucy's love letters, she agrees to give him his freedom. However, when Roosevelt's political advisors caution that a divorce might hinder his political aspirations, he ends his affair with Lucy, who then marries a wealthy older man. Roosevelt and Lucy rekindle their affair twenty years later when Roosevelt seeks her companionship when he is under stress during World War II. They remain together after this, and he dies with Lucy by his side.
Critical reception to Lucy was generally favorable. The New York Times Book Review said that "in purely fictional terms" Lucy Mercer Rutherfurd is "a wonderful creation." Booklist reviewer Brendan Dowling praised Feldman's depiction of Lucy as "an intelligent and perceptive woman stymied by the social restrictions of her time." A Kirkus Reviews critic, however, felt that "Franklin comes across as surpassingly selfish, Eleanor as pathetic, and Lucy as annoyingly saintly." The same reviewer reflected favorably upon Feldman's description of the young Eleanor and Lucy, noting that Feldman "sketches a charming and bittersweet picture of the two rather similar young women sitting on a carpet surrounded by envelopes, their loss of innocence is soon to come."
In an article published in American Heritage, Feldman noted that her fascination with the Roosevelts dates back to her childhood. To Feldman, the discovery of Lucy, [Franklin D. Roosevelt's] great love, complicated the Roosevelts' story but also made them more human. Feldman explained, "The more I admired the three of them, the less I wanted to gloss over their faults. Perhaps [Franklin D. Roosevelt's] charm did mask an emotional iciness, and [Eleanor Roosevelt's] high-mindedness did make her almost as hard on others as she was on herself, and Lucy's ability to live a gilded life while one-third of the nation was 'ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished' was unconscionable. But all three were grand enough to accommodate flaws. As Lucy realizes in my book, if you cannot accept imperfections, you cannot love—or, I would add, write history, biography, or fiction."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Heritage, February-March, 2003, Ellen Feldman, "FDR and His Women: A Novelist Who Has Just Spent Several Years with Them Tells the Moving Story of Love: Public and Private, Given and Withheld," p. 53.
Booklist, April 15, 1998, Toni Hyde, review of God Bless the Child, p. 1427; January 1, 1999, review of God Bless the Child, p. 781; December 15, 2002, Brendan Dowling, review of Lucy, p. 732.
Kirkus Reviews, April 1, 1998, review of God Bless the Child, p. 420; November 1, 2002, review of Lucy, p. 1551.
New York Times Book Review, May 17, 1998, Laura Van Wormer, review of God Bless the Child, p. 37; January 12, 2003, David Willis McCullough, "Designs on the Teacups: Peopled with Historical Figures, a Novel Chronicles the Life of F. D. R.'s Mistress," p. 5.
Publishers Weekly, May 23, 1994, review of Too Close for Comfort, p. 78; November 6, 1995, review of Rearview Mirror, p. 83; April 13, 1998, review of God Bless the Child, p. 53.
MostlyFiction.com, http://www.mostlyfiction.com/ (March 24, 2004), review of Rearview Mirror.*