Book Review: “The Writing Circle: A novel” by Corinne Demas

The Writing Circle: A Novel by Corinne Demas.
New York: Hyperion/Voice. 2010.
296 pages
ISBN: 978-1-4013-4169-5

Review of “The Writing Circle”

When I first picked up this book, I figured it was just going to be a group of writers reading pieces of their work and see how it plays out in each of their lives. I imagined it would be Jane Austen Book Club-esque. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Corrine Demas, who has been a part of several book clubs, writes about a writing circle that calls itself the Leopardi Circle. There are six members to the group: Bernard, a biographer; Gillian, a famous poet; Chris, a thriller writer; Virginia, a historian; and Adam, an aspiring novelist. Newcomer to the group, Nancy, is a soft, sensitive woman who believes in “the right thing to do,” is nervous about sharing the manuscript she is working on; not that she is embarrassed by it, but because of its intimate nature of the protagonist to her.

The book is divided into two parts, with the first part revealing the opening chapter of Nancy’s manuscript. Chapters alternate to different points of views and moments of characters’ lives. The relationships between members of the circle are revealed, past and present (for example, Bernard had once been married to Virginia; they have two grown children). In the process, the lives of characters outside of the writing circle come to light. The writers themselves, their children, and their significant others are found to be intertwined in a web of life stories, relationships, affairs, and truths.

The second part is another new chapter in Nancy’s life which contains happy, upsetting, and anxious moments. A new side to everyone is revealed and the reader is more and more inclined to choose a member to side with. Nancy believes her novel’s protagonist makes a journey that is based on “choice, not punishment”; Gillian has a difficult time accepting this reasoning. Nancy claims her book is “about the changes people make in their lives. The choices they don’t realize they have, and the choices they take advantage of.” A battle of words and choices unveils the true characters of everyone in the circle, and there is a conclusion, which only one character is aware of, that proves a point.

Corinne Demas captures the reader with her characters. They’re developed quickly and have their distinct voices and personalities which permeates off the pages. Gillian’s haughtiness and high self-praise was evident; Virginia’s maternal instincts and peacemaking methods proved valuable to the group; Chris’s devotion to his work and to his children were admirable; Adam’s passionate nature, his ups and downs, were intensely felt; and Bernard’s inability to understand human nature, despite being a biographer, was baffling yet entertaining. It was fast-paced and entertaining, never allowing there to be a dull moment. This is definitely a “can’t-put-it-down” book that goes by quickly, but be careful: read it too fast and you’ll wonder what really happens to the writing circle and Nancy’s novel.

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