Harper Perennial to release lost Jetta Carleton novel, Clair de Lune, in March 2012

Cover of forthcoming release of 'Clair de Lune'Robert Nedelkoff passed along Harper’s list of new publications for Winter 2012, which includes a listing for Clair de Lune, a hitherto unpublished novel that came to light after the Harper Perennial release of her first novel, The Moonflower Vine.

I wrote about The Moonflower Vine in late 2006 after finding a piece about it in Jane Smiley’s 13 Ways of Looking at the Novel. That post garnered more of a response than any other on this site. Since then, several dozen people have written to express how much they loved this book, many saying that they’re read it ten times or more.

Carleton wrote Clair de Lune between 1995 and 1997, after the death of her beloved husband, Jere Lyon. She wrote the novel, which had a working title of The Back Alleys of Spring, on a friend’s computer. Neither the writing nor the use of the PC (she’d never touched one before) was any mean feat for someone in her early eighties at the time. Before she had the chance to start looking for a publisher, however, she suffered a stroke that took her ability to speak. She died in 1999.

The story in Clair de Lune derives from Carleton’s own experiences as a young teacher in Joplin–in the same area of southwest Missouri that The Moonflower Vine is set in. Harper’s Winter catalog provides a fragmentary synopsis of the plot:

The time: 1941, at the cusp of America’s entry into WWII. The place: southwest Missouri, on the edge of the Ozark Mountains. A young, single woman named Ailen Liles has taken a job as a junior college teacher in a small town, though she dreams of living in New York City, of dancing at recitals, of absorbing the bohemian delights of the Village. Then, in her seminar, she encounters two young men: George, a lanky, carefree spirit, and Toby, a dark-haired, searching …

I’m sure it will prove less Danielle Steel-y than that last sentence suggests.

Harper’s announcement says it’s planning on a release of 30,000 copies in trade paperback, along with release in several eBook formats. Let’s hope it’s as good as The Moonflower Vine fans would wish for.

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