Black, Katherine Bolton

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BLACK, Katherine Bolton

Born 7 November 1903, Boston, Massachusetts; died 13 November 1962, Boston, Massachusetts

Daughter of Henry and Margaret Weed Bolton; married Joseph R. Black, 1928; children: four

Katherine Bolton Black, daughter of a wealthy Boston businessman and a socialite mother, spent much of her early childhood abroad in the British and French countryside. The lovely scenery of rural Europe figured prominently in her early poetry and in By the Riverbank (1954). Black attended Miss Brody's School for Girls, then Simmons College, from which she graduated with honors in 1924. Her marriage to Joseph Black, a lawyer, produced four children.

Black began her writing career at Simmons, composing verse in which the recurring theme of "a Natural Paradise" figured heavily. Her first published poem, "The Greenest Pastures," ran in the July 1930 issue of McCall's. Her verse was subsequently published in miscellaneous ladies' magazines, but was never collected in volume form.

In 1942 Black's first attempt at fiction, a long short story, "At the Village Gate," was selected to run in the anthology, Best Short Stories of the Year: 1942. In this story a British naval officer falls in love with Jenny, who is obviously modeled after Black. On leave, he visits Jenny at her small-town New England home, only to find she is in love with another man. His despair at the discovery is moving, although the tone of the whole is sentimental. Black's vivid descriptions of nature and the outdoors, however, are the saving grace of this otherwise very ordinary love story.

Black continued to write verse and stories, but her household and wifely duties interfered with her writing. In 1949 her husband died, and Black turned to writing with a seriousness and energy not previously evident in her work. In the next few years she wrote her most highly acclaimed stories, "John, Forever Mine," and "Another Hillside Vacation," both solidly written, unsentimental looks at married life.

Her first novel, By the Riverbank (1954), created little stir in the literary world, but one critic called it, "a thoughtful study of human jealousy and greed." The book centers around a newlywed couple who have emigrated to England from France shortly before World War II. The tensions of living in a foreign land quickly create strong jealousies between the two young people, who are both aspiring writers. Sarah accuses her husband Stephen of involvement with the daughter of a neighboring farmer, and Stephen grows increasingly jealous as he realizes his wife's creative talents are greater than his own. In By the Riverbank Black presents an interesting psychological study of a loving marriage that is nearly destroyed by jealousy.

Black's second novel, As the Crow Flies (1957), lacks the fine characterization found in her first novel. Here, Black tends to bog down in endless description of natural settings as she presents arguments in favor of ecological conservation. The story centers around a young girl growing up in New England, who witnesses the destruction of natural beauty around her: farms and waterways are destroyed as the metropolis of Boston spreads into the surrounding countryside. Although Black presents a convincing argument for conservation, the storyline is sacrificed to the novel's message.

Black's work is characterized by poetic description and a keen eye for detail. Evidence of her early interest in poetry can be found in the graceful phrasing of her later prose works. Although not a major writer, Black deserves more recognition than she has hitherto received.

Bibliography:

Good Housekeeping (13 May 1954). Life (March 1958). NYHTB (June 1954). NYT (16 May 1954, 23 May 1954).

—MAUREEN MACDONALD