Thomas and Beal in the Midi: A Novel (Paperback)
A young interracial couple escapes from Maryland to France in 1892, living first among artists in the vibrant Latin Quarter of Paris, and then beginning a new life as winemakers in the rugged countryside of the Languedoc
Twenty-three years after the publication of his acclaimed novel Mason’s Retreat and six years after The Right-Hand Shore, Christopher Tilghman returns to the saga of the Mason and Bayly families in Thomas and Beal in the Midi.
Thomas Bayly and his wife, Beal, have run away to France, escaping the laws and prejudices of post-Reconstruction America. The drama in this richly textured novel proceeds in two settings: first in Paris, and then in the Languedoc, where Thomas and Beal begin a new life as winemakers.
Beal, indelible, beautiful, and poised, enchants everyone she meets in this strange new land, including a gaggle of artists in the Latin Quarter when they first arrive in Paris. Later, when they’ve moved to the beautiful and rugged Languedoc, she is torn between the freedoms she experienced in Paris and the return to the farm life she thought she had left behind in America.
A moving and delicate portrait of a highly unusual marriage, Thomas and Beal in the Midi is a radiant work of deep insight and peerless imagination about the central dilemma of American history—the legacy of slavery and the Civil War—that explores the many ways that the past has an enduring hold over the present.
About the Author
Christopher Tilghman is the author of the short-story collections In a Father’s Place, and The Way People Run, and several novels, including Mason’s Retreat and Thomas and Beal in the Midi. Currently the director of the Creative Writing Program at the University of Virginia, he and his wife, the writer Caroline Preston, live in Charlottesville, Virginia.
“Third in his acclaimed Mason saga, Tilghman’s beautifully contemplative novel observes his protagonists’ uncommon marriage, showing how each must come into his own separately before they can flourish as a couple . . . Alongside Beal and Thomas and their skillfully delineated journeys to maturity, many secondary characters also stand out, including a kindly nun and a difficult Jewish painter with unique insight into Beal’s state of mind. Belle Époque Paris and the southern French countryside are described exquisitely, as is the rich terroir that shapes the human heart.” —Booklist
“Tilghman expands his Mason family saga with this elegant novel about an interracial couple resettling in fin-de-siècle France to escape American miscegenation laws . . . Tilghman’s story revisits themes from his best work: how family nurtures and oppresses, how land brings prosperity and ruin, and how American character is strengthened by enterprise and haunted by the past. This is an appealingly contemplative and compassionate novel.” —Publishers Weekly
“Lushly written . . . A recurring theme of innocent, even naïve Americans coming to understand worldly Europe recalls Henry James, as do the novel's astute psychological insights. Tilghman’s prose can be seductively lovely, and he creates engaging, often surprising characters. This historical novel's evocative descriptions of fin de siècle France and skillfully drawn characters add up to a sensitive and satisfying portrait of a marriage.” —Kirkus Reviews