Study Guide

M. F. K. Fisher, a Life in Letters

by M. F. K. Fisher

M. F. K. Fisher, a Life in Letters Essay - Critical Essays

M. F. K. Fisher, a Life in Letters

Mary Frances Kennedy Fisher shared her personal perspectives in books, articles, and essays on food, eating, and travel. M.F.K. FISHER, A LIFE IN LETTERS: CORRESPONDENCE, 1929-1991, published posthumously, presents selected letters in five sections. “Dijon, France: 1929 1932,” comprises letters written while she lived abroad with husband Al Fisher. “Le Paquis, Switzerland, and Bareacres, California: 1935 - 1949” reveals a time of turbulence and tragedy. After divorcing Fisher, Mary Frances married Dillwyn Parrish, her great love. Parrish, suffering constant, agonizing pain after having a leg amputated, committed suicide in 1941. In 1945, Mary Frances remarried; as that marriage collapsed, she and her daughters returned to California to care for her father. “Kennedy Ranch, Whittier, California: 1950 1953” demonstrates her frustrations as her career was reduced to magazine articles and helping her father write his daily column. “St. Helena, California, and Aix-en-Provence, France: 1954 1970” chronicles renewed productivity and adventure, including two lengthy stays in Europe with her daughters. “Last House, Glen Helen, California, 1970 1992” covers the last two decades of Fisher’s life. Although declining health diminished her literary output, she continued corresponding with relatives, friends, and fans.

The letters highlight many aspects of Fisher’s personality: passionate woman, disillusioned wife, dutiful but stressed daughter, delighted mother of curious young girls, concerned mother of a troubled and alienated adult child, writer seeking inspiration, senior citizen dealing with limitations and facing impending death. Dozens of pictures complement the text. Readers familiar with Fisher will find new insights and new questions; others will meet a fascinating woman and delightful writer.

Sources for Further Study

American Scholar. LXVII, Spring, 1998, p. 154.

Booklist. XCIV, February 15, 1998, p. 962.

Kirkus Reviews. LXV, December 1, 1997, p. 1750.

Library Journal. CXXIII, February 1, 1998, p. 95.

The New York Times Book Review. CIII, January 18, 1998, p. 8.

Publishers Weekly. CCXLIV, November 24, 1997, p. 60.

The Virginia Quarterly Review. LXXIV, Summer, 1998, p. 90.

The Washington Post Book World. XXVIII, March 8, 1998, p. 4.