The Open Door by Elizabeth Maguire

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“The story is the journey, not the destination. Or so the philosopher’s say. But this is my story, and it has a beginning, a middle, and an end….”

The Open Door is a luminous and profoundly moving novel inspired by the life of Constance Fenimore Woolson, one of the most widely-read and respected American authors of the nineteenth century. Exploring themes of passion, life, death, friendship, and art, the novel is a vivid evocation of the complex forces behind literary creation.

After years of supporting her mother and a hapless brother through her writing, Constance finds herself in early middle age “hungry, ravenous to see and live as much as possible.” She sails for Europe with a letter of introduction to Henry James, the writer she admires above all others. Constance is intoxicated by Europe, Italy in particular, and she and James eventually meet in Florence. James is delighted by this highly intelligent, independent woman (whom he dubs “Fenimore” as a sign of his esteem) and makes her his confidante. For her part, Constance finds with James “the unequalled joy of never running out of things to say.”

Constance’s courageous, open nature is odds with James’s more secretive one and inevitably leads to friction, transgression, and revenge both private and public. Elegantly conceived and life-affirming, The Open Door is an unforgettable portrait of a remarkable woman who lived with passion and refused to accept the narrowing of her world.

About Elizabeth Maguire

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Elizabeth Maguire Elizabeth Maguire (1958-2006) was born in New York City and had a distinguished twenty-five year career as an editor and publisher. She nurtured numerous prize-winning books and was especially known as a champion of African-American nonfiction and for her deep commitment to African-American writers. Maguire published one novel, Thinner, Blonder, Whiter (2003), during her lifetime. She had just completed her second novel, The Open Door, at the time of her death from ovarian cancer.
Published June 10, 2008 by Other Press. 236 pages
Genres: History, Literature & Fiction. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for The Open Door

Kirkus Reviews

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This second novel from publisher Maguire (Thinner, Blonder, Whiter, 2002), who died in 2006, is a fictional autobiography, narrated by James Fenimore Cooper’s great-niece Connie, an opinionated woman liberated at age 39, after her mother’s death, to pursue her writing and her obsession to meet He...

Jun 10 2008 | Read Full Review of The Open Door

Publishers Weekly

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Pitch perfect from start to finish, the book is couched as the memoir of once-popular writer Constance Fenimore Woolson (1840–1894): a manuscript left behind at her death to counter her image as “a long-suffering, martyred spinster.” At its center is the vibrant, intriguing relationship between W...

Mar 17 2008 | Read Full Review of The Open Door

ForeWord Reviews

The heroine of Elizabeth Maguire’s historical novel, Constance Fenimore Woolson, points out to her new friend Henry James that the “dilemma of modern female life” is the “freedom to think, to desire, but not the freedom to act.” Any reader who has a passing familiarity with James’s life and writi...

Jun 10 2008 | Read Full Review of The Open Door

Lambda Literary

Elizabeth Maguire is one of several authors (notably Colm Toibin’s The Master) to explore the friendship between the writers Henry James and Constance Fenimore Woolson.

Jul 06 2009 | Read Full Review of The Open Door

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