Here is the review of this book I wrote for Amazon: "This book answered all my questions about Nella Larsen, and I appreciated the author's very readable style coupled with meticulous historiography. I did try to read Thadious Davis' book first, but it felt like reading a legal brief and I just couldn't take it :-) However, it did make me realize that in some ways Nella Larsen has been brought to trial - people felt she had done wrong and needed to exonerate herself (so to speak) but that task turned out to be more daunting than might be supposed. My own reading of her, as a woman who was neither white nor black, and was perhaps more white than black culturally, although she had a dark complexion, was accessible through Hutchinson's book. I read "Passing" first and became completely fascinated by Larsen, perhaps not least because my mother and her parents were dealing with color-line issues in the 1920's as well. I followed up "Passing" with "Quicksand" - and having Danish relatives myself, having visited Denmark too - I found her depiction of Danish culture to be quite true to form. Sprinkled through the book's pages were also anecdotes of many leading lights and important events and incidents of the various eras covered by Larsen's life. I especially enjoyed the recounting of her nursing work during the Spanish Influenza epidemic in New York City. So, I have to say, I found the book very entertaining and informative on a much wider scale than just one person's life. Nevertheless, I found her particular life - a woman far ahead of her time - very fascinating, and the whole treatment of the dynamics and politics of the color-line as it played out in her particular life nuanced and extremely thought-provoking."
What I didn't say in this review is that just considering Larsen as a novelist ought to be material enough for a nice portably slim volume. She really only wrote two novels "Quicksand" and "Passing." Sadly, we've lost other novels which she wrote, and I especially would like to have seen the 'white' novel that was turned down even though its ending was supposed to have been spectacular!
The fact that in her later years she returned to nursing and that 'nursing and reading' were her life make me feel close to Larsen. There's nothing wrong with a life of reading and reflection, especially when coupled with the hard work she seems to have maintained as the night supervisor for the old Gouvernor's Hospital in New York City.
If you want to know more about Nella Larsen, after reading her two novels, this is the next book to read!
Ps - Thank you George Hutchinson!