Like most lucky childhoods, mine was spent reading. Mostly this was because I enjoyed it but also, it was the only thing to do: my parents worked constantly, and as expatriate Americans doing business abroad, they believed that all meetings should take place in bistros. However, English language books were not as easy to come by as the seared foie-gras terrines that seemed to turn up on every corner. The small shopping plaza of our village outside of Brussels contained a multitude of pleasures, but it was proudly, and meaningfully, Flemish. Faced with a reading shortage, my parents had already encouraged me to read their books. Leon Uris and Michener and the other Big Books for Boomers were incredibly boring, and I told them so. They sighed, and always said the same thing: well, then, Barbara, go to the library.
I was already there, working my way through the stacks of the small library at my school pretty much daily. I loved not only the volume of works on offer—shoutout to the Brits for the many “orphan children” series that had third-graders running from the blitz with bags full of cash, living in boxcars, finding an alien in a sandbox, etc—but also the possibility of learning, from the card in the back, who else had taken out the book. My friend Sylvia, a refugee from Bosnia, had an especially stylish and confident older sister whom we all admired. To see her name in an Agatha Christie mystery was nothing short of electrifying. I would carefully inscribe mine in the empty space below, and feel that I had joined an important lineage; a secret society of brilliant young women. A guild, if you will, of shared discourse.
Though it seems likely that the end of the physical borrowing card has significantly improved the librarian’s workday, I cannot step into any library without feeling as if I am still surrounded by those penciled lists of names, as if I am in a space made from the inimitable fabric of intellectual exchange. This feeling persists because, of course, it’s true with or without the cards: Librarians themselves are that guild of shared discourse, responding to and leading their communities with the development of their collections, one book at a time.
Since I began publishing fiction, I’ve been honored to compete for shelf space at the library, and for the attention of the readers and thinkers who keep them running. I’m exceptionally proud to submit my third novel, The Force of Such Beauty, for your consideration. The story of a retired athlete who marries a prince, it explores the modern-day temptation of the princess story—the conviction that those with the most can do the utmost good—with a critical eye and a warm heart. It is my hope that you will find it not only lyrical, imaginative, and surprising, but worthy of your time and attention, and that of your community, as well.
Thank you for every time you’ve grabbed a volume off the returns cart and flashed it at someone who you’re certain should be on the hold list; for every time you’ve asked someone reading X, “Have you heard of Y?”; for all the work you do, day in and out, to keep this not-so-secret society of brilliant, curious people everywhere in fellowship and conversation.