Her name is Bernadette O'Brien. The unhappy child born into a working-class Irish Catholic family. The misfit and girl-genius, who entered the halls of academic privilege at the age of twelve and rose within its ranks to become a respected professor of physics at Harvard. The defiant woman, inspired in a most scrumptious occasion of sin to commit an extraordinary crime. The Death Row celebrity sentenced to die in the electric chair for the shocking sexual murder of two of her most promising male students, her sweet phallocentrics. In her journal (my death book), Bernadette takes a dark and resolute look back at the unfolding events that led to the horrific crimes for which she stood trial. For which she was condemned and for which she is now caged to dream, to imagine, to confess. Defiance is a haunting chronicle of Bernadette's loves, longings, and losses. It is a story of a lonely, brilliant woman trapped in her own mind, in this prison, within a prison, within a prison, where she replays her crimes and reconstructs the past, drawing the reader into the heart of her dark secret. A page-turning novel of suspense, transgression, and dark humor; a probe into the depths of the female psyche - inextricably embedded in a uniquely American matrix of violence, sexuality, and class difference - Defiance is a raw and fearless performance by an author of fierce and uncompromising vision. Poignant and provocative, harrowing and hypnotic, Defiance is like nothing you have ever read before.
A writer of daring originality and moral consequence.
Forthright and uncompromisingly provocative…risky, vibrant, and vitally intelligent.
The Boston Book Review
Astonishing in its dark brilliance, its power to disturb, its fearlessness in taking on the terrifying subjects of sex, class, gender and the life of the mind—to say nothing of its stated subject: murder. Carole Maso is an utter original, one of the true and plangent voices in American writing.
Carole Maso's Defiance is a passionate performance, stylistically brilliant, authentic, daring. The novel reads as a fable written from a dark place, yet it is an illumination for the reader.
This last testament of a brilliant unrepentant murderer taking on her century is ferocious and uncompromising…Defiance is a work of great craft, intelligence, and passion.
It may not be all that conventional, but along with the structural and stylistic intricacies, it is as suspenseful a novel as any in the suspense genre. The reader, like Bernadette's students, is pulled along by the hypnotic, lyrical power of seductress Maso. As revelation follows revelation, building to the inevitable click, one is left in awe of the genius manqué Bernadette - one of the most memorable characters in contemporary fiction - and her divine creator, Ms. Maso, who gives voice to the underlying rage - often unrealized and unarticulated - that is as much a part of American society as apple pie . . . and the NRA, the Boy Scouts, and Huntsville, Texas.
Jill Adams, The Barcelona Review
Maso is a writer of such power and originality that the reader is carried away with her, far beyond the usual limits of the novel.
San Francisco Chronicle
Defiance is set at the darkest end of Maso's mood scale, its fragmentary form and repeating images that seem to lead nowhere mirroring Bernadette's anguished inability to speak and her failure to fulfill her stated hope at the beginning of her prison diary that she will give sorrow words…Bernadette's inner sense of imprisonment, her efforts to break with muteness, to find her voice, to understand her life, mirror Maso's wrestling match with recalcitrant language, its ambivalence, incoherencies, lies—hence the abounding images of containment, most notably a childhood tree-house, which has a dual role as a lovely symbol of respite from Bernadette's awful circumstances but which is also the site of a terror she cannot quite face (implying that it's impossible to unravel good from evil in life's whole cloth)…one can not help being seduced by the journey through the dark woods of Bernadette's mind as a stunning example of Maso's lifelong search for a language that heals as much as it separates—to quote Maso's dying heroine, Ava, who in turn is quoting Maso's icon, French philosopher Helene Cixous. It's a phrase that beautifully incorporates the dual irony of language as played out in Defiance.