TAKING THE PULSE OF "FALL'S BRIGHT FLAME"
“Coming of Age” as a term pitches us into a magical time when summer lasts forever, and our bodies nudge our minds into turbulent backwaters. But wait, what age? What arrival? If at fifty years old or thereabouts, the analogy holds; if the uniformity of life that precedes upheaval resembles those early rhythms, well, what then?
Where we find Elise von Sturnheim as Fall’s Bright Flame opens is surely another sort of coming of age, a thrilling and perplexing shape-shifting of all things familiar and predictable.
The simple act of leaving her husband and home for a trip north to attend to the details of her mother’s funeral carries Elise through the looking glass and into a vortex of conflicting loyalties. There she will test not only the depth of her own integrity but also her capacity for loyalty; not only her susceptibility to passion but also her ability to trust herself and the unfolding future.
The story begins with a chance encounter with her mother’s doctor, who ignites her antipathy and much more. The bright flame that grows illuminates a world inhabited by the generation born after WWII and endowed with cultural advantages, long held principles and biases.
Action sprints from Maryland to Massachusetts, Washington to New York, and hence to London, Cornwall and Paris. In the fall of the year and the fall of life — that bright flame before winter — Elise’s tale is of family, friends and how coming of age is not anchored in chronology.
"Cynthia Hoskin has written a very sophisticated novel, her first, titled "Fall's Bright Flame". Realizing that almost no fiction has been written by or about women of her generation, who matured in the fifties, her work continues in one of American literature's most fertile territories: the American suburb, with forays in and out of various Eastern seaboard cities: Boston, New York, Baltimore in particular. These are cities where the old tradition of Social Registers still held sway and had a lot of clout, and Hoskin's narrator and most of her characters come from that world. And Hoskin is particularly astute in her understanding of the mores and language of said world, as she not only understands it, but she suggests its strengths and weaknesses throughout her novel.
"While reading "Fall's Bright Flame", a very fast-paced novel zipping back and forth between the cities mentioned, I saw echoes of John O'Hara, John Cheever, John Updike, those superb chroniclers of upper middle/upper class suburban American life; the roots of their writing, too, harkens back to both Henry James and Edith Wharton, and I see more Wharton in Hoskin's writing than I see James, and that's a compliment, as Hoskin's female characters manifest the strong willed characters of the women from that background (it teeters between upper middle and upper class). They marry older men, who are "experienced" – that's assumed – and the marriages are like mergers: each partner to these marriages is quite independent; manners are civilized and conversation snappy and clever; children are assumed, go to the boarding schools which their parents generally attended, marry well, and keep their childhood friendships throughout their lives.
"Friendship between women is a strong point in Hoskin's novel; her women characters speak in a kind of assumed code, and their closeness is lovely to observe. In Hoskin's world, people have dinner parties all the time--it's what friends do--and homosexual men, for example, are easily integrated into their world, questions left unasked; civility reigns.
"Hoskin's narrator, whom we meet just after her mother's death, is an independent-minded woman, presented in the novel as a fiction writer of increasing renown, with a most ambivalent relationship with her sister, who works in the film industry: one of the strong points in the novel is this sisterly relationship, maddening yet still close; they know one another almost too well, but defer to one's another's strong and weak points. And neither really sheds a tear for their mother's demise; they come to suburban Boston to clean up her affairs, sell her house, move on (wills are of more interest here than the mother's character, but I found that kind of detail very true to life). The narrator, too, will meet a male neighbor of her mother's, mysterious and vexing, and we know that these two will eventually come together, whether temporarily or permanently is difficult to know throughout the novel, which thus keeps the plot moving along quickly. Hoskin also introduces a subplot, so the readers don't know who this man is, where he comes from and the like; I found this subplot diverting and amusing, in its way, as it also involves wills and money and unknown (but protected) identities.
"And as these two develop their affair, we are privy to some serious growth and internal dialogues of the narrator, which are strong and well delineated. And the narrator's closeness to her first husband and to her children is very credibly done, too. Hoskin knows her restaurants and her hotels and what her characters eat, drink, and discuss. One assumes that the women in the novel have spent a lot of time doing volunteer work, mainly in the arts, as their parents would have assumed same from their children. Fascinatingly, as the affair between the narrator and her stranger grows, the moral code by which the narrator lives neither cracks nor breaks, and that's quite a feat on Hoskin's part. And people in this novel find themselves equally at ease in London as they do in The East Coast of America, and Hoskin knows her territory well. “Tides of Fall” is an excellent read; it's extremely well written, and it speaks to a world mostly gone, now, and “Tides of Fall” lets us ruminate about what we may have lost as well as where we were headed. It's a terrific read, and it has some real depth to its characters. I couldn't put it down; it's a serious novel about manners, of course, and it works on many levels, which Hoskin intends." Daniel Brown, Editor AEQAI.com, Art Curator and Literary Critic, 5/22/2017 Go Here to visit.
Cynthia Hoskin’s Fall’s Bright Flame is one of those rare works that causes a reader, immediately drawn in by the book’s irresistible story, to find her or himself simultaneously, almost effortlessly, reflecting on the meaning of family and friends, the passage of time, and the many things that, although largely beyond our control, create a plot of their own wherein we can find ourselves and perhaps begin to understand who we are. Hoskin provides us with both an escape, and a homecoming. Sonja Rethy, Editorial Director, Hebrew Union College Press
Cynthia Hoskin is a master storyteller. Her plot moves quickly with interesting twists and turns. But mostly it is her dialogue, sparkling with wit and wry humor, that captures the reader. One is caught up with the brash openness of her protagonist. In her descriptions of even the most apparently superficial conversation her narrative voice points out the smallest details revealing nuance, critique of social convention and depth of character. In this she follows in the giant footsteps of Virginia Wolf. Jacob D. Lindy, psychoanalyst and author of “Invisible Walls” (Routledge Press) Go Here to buy; “Vietnam: a Casebook” (Guilford Press); “Trauma, Culture, and Metaphor: Pathways of Transformation and Integration” (Routledge Press) Go Here to buy.
Cynthia Hoskin takes the reader on a compelling page-turner of a ride with one-of-a-kind characters not easily forgotten. Through realistic dialogue and an original plot culminating in a surprising turn of events, the energy of Fall's Bright Flame remains afterward as a flavor for one to savor. Mary Anne Sanders, Author of “Miss Ollie: Tennessee Madam” (Soon to be published) and “Nearing Death Awareness: A Guide to the Symbolic Language, Visions and Dreams of the Dying” Go Here to buy.
Cynthia Hoskin is a masterful storyteller. Through dialogue and description she weaves a tale of drama and intrigue, making her novel impossible to put down. Connie Sullivan, internationally known fine arts photographer and author of “Petroglyphs of the Heart”. Go Here to buy.
Many years in the writing and refining, Fall's Bright Flame is soon to be ready for birth/publication. Thank you, kindly reader, for coming here to see what's happening!