Leigh Sauerwein (1944-) Biography
Personal, Addresses, Career, Writings, Sidelights
Born 1944, in Charlotte, NC; Education: Attended George Washington University and Boston University. Politics: Democrat.
office—Je Bouquine/Bayard Presse, 3, Rue Bayard, 75008 Paris, France.
Author and translator. Je Bouquine, France, former editor.
The Way Home (short stories), illustrated by Miles Hyman, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 1994.
(Adaptor and translator) Ingrid and Dieter Schubert, Amazing Animals (translation of Van mug tot oliphant), Front Street/Lemniscaat (Arden, NC), 1995.
(Adaptor and translator) Charlotte Dematons, Looking for Cinderella (translation of Waar is Assepöster?), Front Street/Lemniscaat (Arden, NC), 1996.
Song for Eloise, Front Street (Asheville, NC), 2003.
Also author of numerous books published in France, including Billy and Rose, for Gallimard Jeunesse.
An American citizen living in France, Leigh Sauerwein writes in two languages, and has gained a following for both her French-language children's books and her novels published in the United States. In addition to penning original fiction, including the novel Song for Eloise and the short-story collection The Way Home, about settling the American West, Sauerwein has also adapted and translated the works of other European authors for American readers.
Praised by a Kirkus Reviews critic as a "superbly crafted tapestry of medieval heartbreak," Sauerwein's novel Song for Eloise takes place in twelfth-century France and focuses on a fifteen year old who finds herself in an arranged marriage to a somewhat uncouth older friend of her father named Robert of Rochefort. Although her thirty-something husband treasures his young wife in his own clumsy way, Eloise of Baudoin is overwhelmed by the changes this marriage has wrought in her life, changes that include a somewhat austere, blind mother-in-law, the physical pain of childbirth, and the loneliness of life in Robert's remote castle home. While Eloise is a romantic at heart, she is ignorant of the love her husband has for her, and she responds to her new circumstances by falling in love with Thomas, a traveling musician whose youth and verbal flattery sweep her off her feet. Sauerwein relates Eloise's story by traveling back and forth in time, and she includes telling details that bring the harshness and beauty of the medieval world vividly to life for middle-grade readers. School Library Journal contributor Renee Steinberg cited Song for Eloise as an "absorbing story" that serves as "a fine choice for an interdisciplinary study of the time." While Jennifer Mattson noted in a Booklist review that the novel's "gorgeous, densely atmospheric prose" and "bluntly realistic conclusion" would make Song for Eloise a challenging read for less-mature readers, a Publishers Weekly contributor praised Sauerwein's "dynamic, memorable characters" and a setting that "offers a cache of sensory riches" for sophisticated young readers.
In The Way Home, Sauerwein includes six stories that reflect on the lives of a diverse cross-section of American pioneers over more than a century and a half. The memories and experiences of several generations of Native
Americans, African Americans, and whites are brought to life in stories which a Publishers Weekly contributor praised as "succinctly wrought" and containing powerful themes of "confinement and rebirth" as their protagonists pursue the American dream of limitless opportunity. The Publishers Weekly contributor had special praise for Sauerwein's "taut pacing and strong, unadorned prose," while in Booklist Hazel Rochman noted that in stories such as "The Dress," "The River," and "Storm Warning" "the spare beauty of the writing" is compelling, and the author's recreation of the spirit of the American frontier "represents both a physical crossing and a personal transformation."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, March 15, 1994, Hazel Rochman, review of The Way Home, p. 1344; December 1, 2003, Jennifer Mattson, review of Song for Eloise, p. 660.
Book Report, November-December, 1994, Dorothy Lilly, review of The Way Home, p. 49.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, January, 2004, Elizabeth Bush, review of Song for Eloise, p. 206.
Children's Bookwatch, March, 2004, Diane C. Donovan, review of Song for Eloise, p. 4.
Horn Book, July-August, 1994, Nancy Vasilakis, review of The Way Home, p. 460; January-February, 2004, Joanna Rudge Long, review of Song for Eloise, p. 92.
Kirkus Reviews, October 15, 2003, review of Song for Eloise, p. 1276.
Publishers Weekly, March 7, 1994, review of The Way Home, p. 72; December 22, 2003, review of Song for Eloise, p. 62.
School Library Journal, April, 1994, Judy R. Johnston, review of The Way Home, p. 155; December, 2003, Renee Steinberg, review of Song for Eloise, p. 160.*
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