The Flaming Corsage

by William J. Kennedy

Hardcover, 1996

Call number




The Viking Press (1996), Edition: 1st, 224 pages


"The Flaming Corsage opens in a Manhattan hotel room, two women and a man present. Into the room bursts a second man, who transforms the scene into what the tabloids come to call "The Love Nest Killings of 1908." The mystery of that carnage will not come fully unraveled until destiny enwraps the novel's principal and most memorable characters, Katrina Taylor and Edward Daugherty." "He is a first-generation Irish American who will break out beyond Albany as a playwright. She is a high-born Protestant, a beautiful and seductive woman with complex attitudes towards life. Theirs is a passionate attachment from the first, simple and unrestrained on Edward's part, more indecisive for Katrina, who, remembering her poet Baudelaire, regards love as apposite to death, "the divine elixir that gives us the heart to follow the endless night." But when the great stalker strikes close to her family in the central event of the novel, a cataclysmic hotel fire, the marriage changes into something else altogether." "With virtuosic skill, Kennedy moves The Flaming Corsage back and forward in time from 1884 to 1912, following the fates of Katrina and Edward as other lives impact upon theirs. These others range from their socially opposed families to Katrina's lover, Francis Phelan; Edward's flirtatious actress paramour, Melissa Spencer; the rashly extroverted physician Giles Fitzroy and his wife, Felicity; and Edward's unnerving friend, the cynical journalist Thomas Maginn."--BOOK JACKET.Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member Griff
Not my favorite Kennedy book, but a very good read. Characters that have ambitions, ambitions complicated by social and familial baggage, are central to the book. Succumbing to personal desires and disenchantment with the personal desires and decisions of others creating a complicated tragic mystery, a mystery explained in various ways by various characters - never fully resolved or disentangled. In the end, the reality of unfulfilled promise and potential is harsh. One of the few Kennedy books that did not convey a sense of redemption amid the personal pain.… (more)
LibraryThing member mahallett
don't quite know what to say about this. is it about the despair and unfullfilment of aging? is it that the charm and beauty of youth can hide real wackiness? or we never really know anyone or what really happened? or what?
LibraryThing member NoLongerAtEase
The Flaming Corsage is my favorite of Kennedy's novels. I'll not argue that it's the best, the most important, or the most fully realized. I haven't the space or the desire to make such strong claims.

Part of what pushes Corsage to the forefront of Kennedy's collected works is its well developed main character, Edward Daugherty. We have met Daugherty earlier in the Albany cycle. He appears, in Billy Phelan, as the aged, disgraced, but nevertheless father of Martin.

Corsage is given over to recounting Edward's downfall and describing the social, personal, and natural circumstances from which it was brought about. This downfall, of course, is precipitated by the event described in the novels opening pages: the love nest killings of 1908. Therein, we are witness to a murder-sucide taht takes place in Edward's hotel suite. Edward is wounded but not severely.

Note: Of all Kennedy's protagonists, is the one with whom educated folk can most fully empathize. Daugherty is an intellectual rather than a politician, a bum, or
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