Nancy Hale’s novels and short stories center on the lives of well-bred women. She commented in 1942, “I specialize in women because they are so mysterious to me. I feel that I know men quite thoroughly. . . . But women puzzle me.” Hale was born in 1908, the daughter of two painters, Lilian Wescott and Philip L. Hale. She graduated from the Winsor School in Boston in 1928 and, planning to be a painter, never attended college. At the age of twenty, she married Taylor Hardin and moved to New York City to work on the editorial staffs at Vogue and Vanity Fair; occasionally, she also modeled while at Vogue. She published her first novel, The Young Die Good, in 1932. The next year, she won an O. Henry Award for “To the Invader,” a short story in which she explores the conflicts of a woman from the northern states who marries a Virginian.
Maxwell Perkins, the renowned editor at Scribner’s, offered Hale strong encouragement for her writing. Despite the birth of her second son, divorce from Hardin, marriage to and divorce from Charles Wertenbaker, and a nervous breakdown, Hale was able to complete and publish her most famous novel, The Prodigal Women, in 1942. That same year, she married Fredson T. Bowers, a professor of English at the University of Virginia. He served in Washington, D.C., as a cryptographer during World War II, after which they lived in Charlottesville, Virginia, and spent summers in New England on Cape Ann.
For the next forty-six years, Hale adapted to the life of the...
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