A Severed Wasp

by Madeleine L’Engle

A Severed Wasp tells the story of Madame Vigneras, a retired pianist who finds herself developing unlikely relationships with the members of an Episcopal community in the heart of New York city. Vigneras hopes for a quiet retirement with time to come to terms with her past: Instead, she finds herself preparing to give a benefit concert at the Cathedral, and she quickly becomes embroiled in the fears, dramas, and problems of those around her. Somehow, amidst a strange mix of new friends, disturbing phone calls, and daydreams about her youth, she not only unravels the truth about strange events at the Cathedral, but also finds some peace about her past.

I have mixed feelings about the book. On the one hand, I respect the skill and imagination of Madeleine L’Engle: She tells an interesting story with a tone and style that befit the New York setting. Her characters certainly don’t fall flat; they come with an intriguing mix of history and emotion. And I enjoyed L’Engle’s careful observations about a musician’s unique outlook at life.

But despite the smooth writing, I found myself somewhat bored with the story. I felt as if I were attending one of the numerous dinner parties described in the book; I was mildly interested in the people around me, but ultimately just wanted the event to be over.

In the end, my reading experience with A Severed Wasp was reminiscent of attending a concert: Though I didn’t feel captivated by each note echoing through the hall, the overall effect was still pleasant enough. And I have a feeling that some of the deeper melodies will float through my mind for awhile.

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