Dickens would have gladly died and gone to Heaven if only he could have written the story awaiting us in the pages that follow. Dickens' stock in trade was the child who grows up orphaned in a callous world, such as Pip in Great Expectations ... the heroine of A Fragile Union, our little Louise, out-Pips Pip right down to the last detail.

. . . If Edith Wharton could have dreamed up the story herein, she would have been rendered spastic by a eureakish euphoria on the one hand (I've found it!) and on the other, fear, two kinds of it. Would even her surpassing talent be equal to the telling of so rich and Byzantine a tale? ... Mrs. Wharton's stock in trade was the young woman in the ineffable first bloom of youth, or the admirable young man in the season of the rising sap, who is walled off forever from the mate that fate had me created for . ... But what are Charity Royall, Countess Olenska, Newland Archer and Ethan Frome, unforgettable as they are, compared to the heroine we are about to meet?

. . . Moreover, our story has a power no novel or poem can match. Which is to say, little Louise's saga is entirely true. That, I promise you, is an enormous advantage. I wrote nonfiction for 20 years before writing my first novel. I quickly learned that the problem with fiction is that it has to be plausible. Life doesnt.

© Tom Wolfe