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Janet Lewis Biography

(1899– ), The Invasion, Famous Cases of Circumstantial Evidence, The Wife of Martin Guerre

American writer, born in Chicago, educated at Lewis Institute and the University of Chicago. Her early travels in Europe, particularly France, had a considerable influence on her writings. Her first novel, The Invasion (1932), is an imaginative creation of Native American life (Lewis herself is of part-Indian origin). Lewis is best known for her three historical novels based on Phillips's Famous Cases of Circumstantial Evidence (1873). The Wife of Martin Guerre (1941), set in sixteenth-century France, recounts the story of the return of a vanished young husband; The Trial of Sören Qvist (1947), set in seventeenth-century Denmark, deals with the repercussions of the return of an assumed murder victim and the execution of the wrongly accused pastor Qvist; The Ghost of Monsieur Scarron (1956), set in France, concerns an honest publisher wrongly accused of producing scurrilous pamphlets about Louis XIV and his present mistress. Against A Darkening Sky (1943) was an experiment in contemporary realism and social comment, and chronicles the fortunes of one rural family in California during the Depression. All her novels are characterized by her economical, elegant and evocative prose style. Her other works include Goodbye Son (1946; stories); volumes of verse, including Poems Old and New 1918–1978 (1981) and Last Offerings (1988); and librettos for The Wife of Martin Guerre (1956; music by William Bergsma), and Alva Henderson's opera of James Fenimore Cooper's The Last of the Mohicans (1976). Lewis was married to Yvor Winters.

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Mary Lavin Biography to Light Shining in Buckinghamshire