This excellent, handsome new edition of Stafford’s novels provides excellent testimony that [Stafford's] California-like embrace of extremes may be just what our culturally fractious age needs ... Boston Adventure (1944) stands as a textbook example of formal dexterity and invention... Sentence for sentence, is as beautifully composed as any American novel I have ever read ... it’s impossible to open to a paragraph that doesn’t make you want to read it out loud ... It is hard to think of an American writer whose work embraced so many extremes: novels and short stories, formal excellence and experiential detail, Proustian paragraphs and Steinbeckian ranch hands, Boston and Covina. With this new 'rediscovery' of her old work (I just wish there was some way Library of America could make the pages a little less tissue-papery thin!) she deserves to be embraced by readers all over again.
Forty years after her death, [Stafford's] sentences still gleam like knives ... There is a new opportunity to ask why work of such originality could ever be forgotten. It is not a case of ordinary neglect ... Her frankness about the aggression in childhood, the drives to masochism and domination — along with her absolute lack of alarm — are what give these novels their uneasy, marginal status. They are threatening; her intensity lies in her descriptive language, not in her moral judgments. She is content to hold everything in her eye, all the ambivalences of intimate life.
Jean Stafford’s novels are a revelation for anyone who knows her only from her many short stories ... Stafford’s most striking gift as a fiction writer was her ability to create characters who simultaneously repel and call forth sympathy from her readers. There is an insistent sense in reading her work of a writer who almost revels in irritated confrontations with life’s disappointments, while also conveying a sense of profound if always temporary relief at their deferral. Sort of like an itch, one that these novels might just prompt in a new generation of Stafford’s readers.