Winthrop, Elizabeth Hartley 1979-
Winthrop, Elizabeth Hartley 1979-
Writer. Schaeffer writing fellow, 2004-05.
Fireworks (novel), Alfred A. Knopf (New York, NY), 2006.
December (novel), Alfred A. Knopf (New York, NY), 2008.
Elizabeth Hartley Winthrop is an American writer. She completed her undergraduate studies at Harvard University, graduating summa cum laude. In 2004 she finished a Master of Fine Arts degree at the University of California, Irvine. The following year she served as a Schaeffer writing fellow.
Winthrop published her first book, Fireworks, in 2006. The novel introduces Hollis Clayton, a man approaching his forties whose life is falling down around him. His wife, Clare, took a summer hiatus from their marriage before deciding if she wants to continue working on it any further; his girlfriend, Marissa, dumps him on the Fourth of July in the middle of the town's fireworks display; he has a drinking problem, as is evidenced by the endless bottles of Jack Daniels in his house; his literary career is fluctuating after relations with his editors turn south; and he is still unable to cope with the loss of his four-year-old son who was hit by a car two years earlier. Hollis is unable to connect with the people in his life, instead he relates better to his surrounding environment. He finds solace in trimming hedges, looking at a billboard of a missing child, spying on his next-door neighbors, and looking after a lost dog. Mostly, however, he turns to alcohol to reduce the burden on his conscience.
Margaret Andrews, writing about Hollis's character on the Curled Up with a Good Book Web site, found that "the most engaging moments are the different turning points he experiences with these other characters, including a stray dog. One theme I walk away with is that redemption and the source of the realization that life is worth living and living well can come from unexpected places." A contributor to Publishers Weekly wrote that Winthrop has produced a "promising debut" with a "sure-handed execution." The same contributor noted that the writing about Hollis's meeting with the editors in Boston is "well done," but suggested that "Winthrop's next outing begs for a real story." Heidi Julavits, writing in the New York Times Book Review, stated: "Characters, if they don't have a good reason to be unhappy, are dismissed by certain readers as unlikable and even unbelievable…. So it is a shame that she saddles Hollis with a dead son as a justification for his plain old alienation." Julavits remarked that "in detailing Hollis's comic screw-ups, Winthrop proves to be a bitingly intelligent writer who infuses otherwise unremarkable moments with bittersweet pathos. Unfortunately, we have to wait nearly a hundred pages to enjoy these talents." Booklist contributor Annie Tully agreed that the book marked a "strong debut" for the author. Tully commented that Winthrop makes a point in "neglecting plot for character," but commented that "she makes it work through an unforgettable narrator" with a "strong voice." Robin Nesbitt, reviewing the book in Library Journal, wrote that "the characters surrounding him are diverse and well written and provide Hollis with the ballast he needs to survive."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, February 1, 2006, Annie Tully, review of Fireworks, p. 31.
Library Journal, February 15, 2006, Robin Nesbitt, review of Fireworks, p. 112.
New York Times Book Review, May 21, 2006, Heidi Julavits, review of Fireworks, p. 8.
Publishers Weekly, February 6, 2006, review of Fireworks, p. 42.
Curled Up with a Good Book,http://www.curledup.com/ (January 31, 2008), Margaret Andrews, review of Fireworks.