The Arrangement
by Ashley Warlick

Overview - Absolutely dazzling. Paula McLain, author of The Paris Wife
Filled with food and passion...If you love historical fiction, you'll fall hard for this one.

She d made it sound as though her husband would be joining them for dinner.

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More About The Arrangement by Ashley Warlick
Absolutely dazzling. Paula McLain, author of The Paris Wife
Filled with food and passion...If you love historical fiction, you'll fall hard for this one.

She d made it sound as though her husband would be joining them for dinner. She d made it sound that way on purpose, and then she arrived alone.

Los Angeles, 1934. Mary Frances is young, restlessly married, and returning from her first sojourn in France. She is hungry, and not just for food: she wants Tim, her husband Al s charming friend, who encourages her writing and seems to understand her better than anyone. After a night s transgression, it s only a matter of time before Mary Frances claims what she truly desires, plunging all three of them into a tangled triangle of affection that will have far-reaching effects on their families, their careers, and their lives.
Set in California, France, and the Swiss Alps, The Arrangement is a sparkling, sensual novel that explores the complexities of a marriage and the many different ways in which we love. Writing at the top of her game, Ashley Warlick gives us a completely mesmerizing story about a woman well ahead of her time, who would go on to become the legendary food writer M. F. K. Fisher."

  • ISBN-13: 9780525429661
  • ISBN-10: 0525429662
  • Publisher: Viking
  • Publish Date: February 2016
  • Page Count: 320

Related Categories

Books > Fiction > Contemporary Women
Books > Fiction > Biographical
Books > Fiction > Literary

BookPage Reviews

Well Read: M.F.K. Fisher, uncooked

M.F.K. Fisher is a rara avis among great American writers, not only because she primarily wrote nonfiction, but because she all but invented the genre that she continues to dominate almost 25 years after her death. Choosing epicurean pursuits as her chief subject, she elevated this hitherto denigrated domestic realm to high art, using it as the source material for larger explorations of life itself. Her best-known writing is drawn from memoir, even though she remained publicly elusive about the details of her own colorful private life.

Fisher did write fiction, though, including one novel, Not Now, but Now, and some atmospheric short stories that also borrow heavily from her life. Discovered among the papers of her late agent, The Theoretical Foot is a novel that she wrote early in her career but never published. Its storyline and characters are nakedly appropriated from Fisher’s own world, and yet its somewhat experimental literary style (the young writer is clearly influenced here by Virginia Woolf, among others of the era) define it as fiction. Set during a single day—August 31, 1938—at a Swiss country house like the one Fisher lived in at the time, the novel unfolds largely through the emotional responses of numerous house guests as they interact and shift in their loyalties and responses to each other. Sara, the character based on Fisher herself, remains a cipher, but the others—including Sara’s lover, Tim; Tim’s sister; and her own brother and sister—are barely disguised versions of their real-life counterparts. Indeed, one can speculate that Fisher never published the novel because its portraits, not always complimentary, hew very closely to the truth.

For the most part, the novel is a breezy evocation of a time and place just before the world tumbled into a devastating war. Its concerns are mostly romantic, and its then scandalous depiction of extramarital dalliances and implied homosexuality may be another reason Fisher abandoned hope of publication. But the book has a much darker overtone, set by six very short, dreamlike passages concerning the amputation of a foot (hence the title). These are drawn from the eventual fate of Fisher’s second husband, Dillwyn Parrish, who suffered from Buerger’s disease, and would endure such amputations before killing himself in 1941.

Coincidentally, the triangulated relationship between Fisher, her first husband, Alfred Young Fisher, and Parrish is also the basis for The Arrangement, an appealing new novel by Ashley Warlick. Set between 1934 and 1939, it recounts some of the events leading up to those depicted in The Theoretical Foot, and offers a lovely, affectionate portrait of the complicated woman who would become M.F.K. Fisher. Curiously, Warlick, who was granted no access to Fisher’s personal papers and probably had no idea of the lost novel’s existence when writing her own, nonetheless conveys a similar narrative voice in her fictional rendition of real events.

The Theoretical Foot is minor Fisher. Had it been published in her lifetime, it most certainly would have undergone some much-needed rewrites—the story starts strongly, wanes and then gains momentum at the end. Yet, taken together, these two works of fiction enrich our understanding of a much loved writer who somehow managed to live a life at once exposed and withheld.


This article was originally published in the February 2016 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

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