Price, Nancy 1925-

views updated

PRICE, Nancy 1925-

PERSONAL: Born 1925, in Sioux Falls, SD; married Howard J. Thompson (a university educator), 1945; children: Catherine, John, David. Ethnicity: "Scotch/Dutch/Norwegian." Education: Attended Tufts University; University of Northern Iowa, M.A., 1964; further graduate study at University of Iowa.

ADDRESSES: Offıce—Department of English Language and Literature, University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls, IA 50614.

CAREER: University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls, faculty member, 1964-68, professor of creative writing, beginning 1979. Karolyi Foundation, writer in residence, 1975; Rockefeller Foundation Study and Conference Center, Lake Como, Italy, resident scholar, 1982; Tyrone Guthrie Centre, Ireland, resident scholar, 1983.

AWARDS, HONORS: Writing fellow, National Endowment for the Arts, 1978; fiction selections, National Syndicated Fiction Project Competition, National Endowment for the Arts and PEN American Center, 1983, 1985.


A Natural Death (novel), Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1973.

An Accomplished Woman (novel), Coward, McCann & Geoghegan (New York, NY), 1979.

Sleeping with the Enemy (novel), Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1987.

Night Woman (novel; Literary Guild selection), Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1992.

Bonfire's Daughter (novel), Presses de la Cité (Paris, France), 1998.

Snake in the Blackberries (novel), Presses de la Cité (Paris, France), 2000.

Two Liars and a Bride (novel), Presses de la Cité (Paris, France), 2004.

Also contributor of poetry and short stories to periodicals, including Atlantic Monthly, New York Times,Quarterly Review of Literature, Virginia Quarterly Review, Newsday, San Francisco Chronicle, and Oregonian Northwest.

Price's novels have been published in Norway, France, Sweden, Brazil, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Germany, Israel, Poland, Denmark, Russia, Czechoslovakia, Korea, and Japan.

ADAPTATIONS: Sleeping with the Enemy was adapted for a film starring Julia Roberts in 1991.

SIDELIGHTS: Nancy Price was a published poet and a college educator when her first novel, A Natural Death, was published in 1973. Since then, she has penned several more well-received books, including the suspenseful thriller Sleeping with the Enemy, which was made into a successful film in 1991. As one Publishers Weekly reviewer noted, "Nancy Price is a very talented writer and her characters are unique."

The title and theme of A Natural Death, according to Jonathan Yardley of the New York Times Book Review, is taken from a quotation by civil rights figure Eldridge Cleaver: "No slave should die a natural death." The novel, set during the time of slavery in the United States, focuses on two black children, a girl and a boy, raised in freedom by an eccentric white man. At the death of their guardian, however, they are caught by slave traders and sold to work on two neighboring plantations. As Yardley explained further, "The mistress of one of the plantations is a white girl with her own qualms about slavery, and the point of the novel is that all three, in order to survive, have to make hard compromises with the system."

Six years passed before the publication of Price's next novel, An Accomplished Woman. The book portrays the life of Catherine, an intelligent girl who grows up helping her step-uncle with natural biology projects and as a result is more interested in things intellectual than the feminine accomplishments necessary for social ease in the 1920s and 1930s. To further complicate matters, both her step-uncle and another man she becomes involved with are past lovers of her beautiful mother, who is now deceased. "Ironic, humorous and understated, An Accomplished Woman avoids the agonized soul-searching that characterizes much of contemporary women's fiction," according to a New Republic critic. "The novel is not an introspective probing of Catherine's fears and desires, but a somewhat distanced observation of her development as a misfit in a stultifying social world." A New Yorker reviewer concluded that the novel would "keep most readers attentive to the end."

In Sleeping with the Enemy the heroine Sara Gray fakes her death in a boating accident in order to leave her abusive husband. She runs away to Iowa, where she assumes an alias and gets a job as a companion to an elderly female English professor. She begins a new life, including a new relationship with another professor, but her visits to her mother in a nursing home put her husband on her trail. Publishers Weekly commended the novel's "chilling scenes of observation and pursuit," and judged it to be "powerful, moving and well-controlled."

Price's fourth effort, Night Woman, concerns "a character who is her own worst enemy," in the words of Margaret Cannon in the Toronto Globe and Mail. Mary Eliot, the protagonist, is the real brains behind the work of her husband, acclaimed novelist Randal Eliot. She even has Randal convinced that he does his own work, dictated to her while he is in trance. In reality, however, Mary writes from his disjointed notes, and Randal is "both psychotic and manic-depressive," as reviewer Joyce Slater put it in the Chicago Tribune. When Randal is killed in a car accident, Mary is free to write for herself under her maiden name, but she then becomes involved with a man intent on writing Randal's biography. Slater called Night Woman "fine" and "moving"; Cannon labeled it "a terrific book . . . a timely and affecting novel about a woman who betrays herself in the name of love."



Chicago Tribune, July 26, 1992, Joyce Slater, review of Night Woman, p. 4.

Globe and Mail (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), June 20, 1992, Margaret Cannon, review of Night Woman, p. C7.

New Republic, January 6, 1979, review of An Accomplished Woman, pp. 39-40.

New Yorker, March 19, 1979, review of An Accomplished Woman.

New York Times Book Review, December 23, 1973, Jonathan Yardley, review of A Natural Death, p. 11.

Publishers Weekly, December 11, 1978, p. 56; February 20, 1987, review of Sleeping with the Enemy, p. 74.

About this article

Price, Nancy 1925-

Updated About content Print Article