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Knights & Dragons - 1965

This short novel was intended to be a title
story in a collection of short fiction, but the editors at McGraw-Hill, the house publishing my work, wished to make it a separate publication. This was a mistake. The context and manner were very different from the strong simple lines of The Light in the Piazza. Critics and readers expressed puzzlement and disappointment, but those who gave it a chance to be read on its own found it rewarding and still do.

The theme was an internal one of obsession and exorcism, and the characters act out their roles as they pertain to a neuroses-prone woman’s obsessive attachment to her estranged husband. The setting in Rome, but in contrast to the other book, it is not a sunny beautiful Italy, but a rainy, cold environment, often frustrating to the Americans who for one reason or another are separated from their native land and in residence abroad. The woman, Martha, longs for freedom from her inner struggle and thinks she has found it when a stranger guesses at her dilemma. His intuition puts them in an intimate relationship, but the affair turns destructive, though it does indeed break the obsession.

The book was generally misunderstood and disliked by U.S. critics but had a very good reception in England, where I was told it was Heinemann’s best reviewed novel of the year.

It was reprinted in The Stories of Elizabeth Spencer and is currently available in “The Light in the Piazza and Other Italian Tales” (University Press of Mississippi).

The Night Travellers | The Salt Line | The Snare | No Place for an Angel | Knights & Dragons
The Light in the Piazza | The Voice at the Back Door | This Crooked Way
Fire in the Morning | Starting Over | The Southern Woman | The Light in the Piazza and Other Italian Tales
On the Gulf | Marilee | Jack of Diamonds | The Stories of Elizabeth Spencer
Ship Island | Landscapes of the Heart | For Lease or Sale

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