Willett, Marcia 1945–
Willett, Marcia 1945–
Born August 6, 1945, in Somerset, England; married a naval officer (divorced); married Rodney (a writer and broadcaster); children: (first marriage) one son.
The Courtyard, Headline Book Publishing Ltd. (London, England), 1995.
Hattie's Mill, Headline Book Publishing Ltd. (London, England), 1996.
Second Time Around, Thorndike Press (Thorndike, ME), 1998.
The Dipper, Thorndike Press (Thorndike, ME), 1999.
Holding On: The Chadwick Family Chronicles, Headline Book Publishing Ltd. (London, England), 1999.
Starting Over, Thorndike Press (Thorndike, ME), 1999.
(Under pseudonym Willa Marsh) The Quick and the Dead, Hodder & Stoughton (London, England), 1999.
A Week in Winter, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2001.
Forgotten Laughter, Hodder Headline (London, England), 2002, published as A Summer in the Country, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2003.
The Children's Hour, Thomas Dunne Books (New York, NY), 2004.
The Golden Cup, Bantam Press (London, England), 2005.
The Birdcage, Thomas Dunne Books (New York, NY), 2005.
First Friends, St. Martin's Griffin (New York, NY), 2006.
A Friend of the Family, Thomas Dunne Books (New York, NY), 2006.
Echoes of the Dance, Thomas Dunne Books (New York, NY), 2007.
Marcia Willett is a British writer of contemporary women's fiction. She was born in Somerset, England, in 1945, the youngest of five sisters. Her family was largely musically inclined, but Willett decided to become a ballet dancer. As she matured, however, her body did not suit the demands of the Royal Ballet, and she decided to become a ballet teacher instead of a performer. She taught at a dance academy run by one of her sisters before becoming a writer.
Willett's second husband, Rodney, is a writer and broadcaster and he encouraged Willett to try her hand at writing novels in 1982 when he was commissioned to write a book on sailing. This assignment required the couple to live on board their ketch for twelve months, and during this time Willett began to write novels.
Forgotten Laughter—published in the United States as A Summer in the Country—tells the story of Brigid Foster, whose elderly mother comes to stay with her at her rustic home. Brigid's peace and quiet disappears, and then long-standing tensions between mother and daughter heat up, fueled by Brigid's belief that her mother has always favored her sister, Jemima. However, when two murders occur close to the cottage, the two women are drawn together. When they encounter a visitor who seems to have a terrifying secret, they must rely on each other.
A Week in Winter stars Maudie Todhunter, an independent and energetic widow who decides to put one of her two homes, a country estate called Moorgate, up for sale. Various would-be buyers appear: Maudie's nasty stepdaughter Selina; building contractor Rob Abbott, who restored the estate; and Melissa Clayton, who is hiding a sad secret but who finds the old estate soothing. The story moves between past and present, unearthing patterns of lies and betrayals. In Booklist, Kathleen Hughes called the book "enjoyable" and praised Willett's use of humor.
In The Children's Hour, long-buried family secrets are uncovered when three aging sisters reunite at the home in England they grew up in. The story opens with sisters Mina and Nest temporarily taking in their eldest sister Georgie who has developed Alzheimer's. The sisters' quiet life in the country is stirred up when Georgie threatens to divulge family secrets from long ago. As secrets are revealed, the three sisters are forced to revisit their past, often painfully. As Booklist contributor Emily Melton remarked, the "characters are just complex enough to draw us into the story and keep us there contentedly." The Golden Cup also deals with family secrets exposed. When a young American arrives in the United Kingdom to research his family history, he unwittingly becomes the catalyst for a family's buried secrets coming to light. Sue Fairhead observed in a review of the book for Bookbag online that "it did take a while to get into the story…. But by about halfway through I was hooked, and towards the end could hardly put it down."
The Birdcage deals with love, loss, and revelation, themes familiar to many of Willett's previous novels. Forty years after her mother's death, Lizzie sets out to find Felix, her mother's former lover who was like a father to her, in hopes of having him answer questions that have lingered for years. When they reunite, Lizzie finally meets his son Piers and they discover that they have "more in common than their unorthodox background would suggest," as Booklist critic Carol Haggas put it. She later praised Willett as a "gifted storyteller" who develops characters that "evoke strong feelings."
First Friends takes the reader through the lives of longtime best friends Kate Webster and Cassandra (Cass) Wivenhoe as they go from young girls to women with their own families. Regardless of what happens in their lives, Kate and Cass have always been able to depend on each other for love and support. It is this bond that helps them get through an unexpected tragedy later in their lives. Willett has the ability to draw "readers into the unexpected depths of the lives of seemingly ordinary characters," remarked Booklist contributor Margaret Flanagan.
In A Friend of the Family, Kate and Cass come together again. However, this story of family, friendship, and loss does not revolve around them, but focuses on Felicity Mainwaring, Thea Lampeter, and Polly Wickam—three women from different backgrounds who are thrown together due to circumstance. After her naval-officer husband dies of cancer, Felicity Mainwaring expects to move on with his close friend George Lampeter, a bachelor with whom Felicity has been involved. After finding out the shocking news that George has married the naive, young Thea, Felicity plots to end their marriage. Meanwhile, Thea's friend Polly leaves her loveless marriage and is forced to reevaluate her life. Except for Felicity, "the characters are interchangeable and far from engaging," felt a Kirkus Reviews contributor. However, Haggas felt that in Willett's novel "unanticipated plot twists, winsome characters, and a beguiling setting unite."
In Echoes of the Dance—a tale of love, change, and relationships—Willett brings Kate Webster back as a recently widowed grandmother who serves as the impetus for an estranged father and his son reuniting. Kate's new friend Roly must deal with a shocking revelation about his son Nate that will either bring them closer or push them farther apart. Meanwhile, Daisy Quin has suffered an accident that threatens to end her dancing career. Taken in by Roly, she now serves as a catalyst for bringing Kate and Roly together. Willett gets caught up in "overexplaining the psychology of her characters," criticized a Publishers Weekly contributor. Booklist critic Haggas felt that in Echoes of the Dance "Willett winsomely creates congenial worlds that welcome loyal fans and new readers with ease."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, March 1, 2002, Kathleen Hughes, review of A Week in Winter, p. 1053; May 1, 2003, Kathleen Hughes, review of A Summer in the Country, p. 1582; June 1, 2004, Emily Melton, review of The Children's Hour, p. 1706; May 1, 2005, Carol Haggas, review of The Birdcage, p. 1573; July 1, 2006, Margaret Flanagan, review of First Friends, p. 34; September 15, 2006, Carol Haggas, review of A Friend of the Family, p. 30; February 15, 2007, Carol Haggas, review of Echoes of the Dance, p. 37.
Kirkus Reviews, April 1, 2002, review of A Week in Winter, p. 452; May 1, 2004, review of The Children's Hour, p. 423; August 1, 2006, review of A Friend of the Family, p. 752.
Library Journal, May 1, 2002, Carol J. Bissett, review of A Week in Winter, p. 136.
Observer (London, England), July 16, 1995, Maureen Freely, review of Those Who Serve, p. 12.
Publishers Weekly, April 29, 2002, review of A Week in Winter, p. 44; January 15, 2007, review of Echoes of the Dance, p. 30.
Bookbag,http://www.thebookbag.co.uk/ (June 11, 2007), Sue Fairhead, review of The Golden Cup.