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Buxton’s ‘The Private War of William Styron’ is published


A six-year-long writing project by Urbanna author Mary Wakefield Buxton came to fruition this week with her first novel being published by Brandylane Publishing Company in Richmond. It is her 13th book and first to be offered in a national market.

The novel is based on Pulitzer Prize-winning author William Styron’s life growing up in Newport News and at Christchurch School in Middlesex County and tells a little known story about the early years of this famous native son.

The novel begins with the return of the 44-year-old native to the funeral of his stepmother, Elizabeth Buxton Styron, at St Paul’s Episcopal Church in Newport News in 1969. As he sits in the pew, Styron suddenly realizes he is sitting in the very same church and pew where he sat as a 15-year-old boy witnessing the marriage of his father to Elizabeth Buxton soon after his own mother’s death of cancer.

This horrifying memory from his youth triggers multiple flashbacks to 1940 with scenes at the post-depression Christchurch School, where he was sent before the marriage “to make something of himself,” along with many other scenes of well-known places on the Peninsula.

Mary Wakefield Buxton knew Styron well and based her novel on real characters and what he told her about those early tumultuous years where he resisted Elizabeth’s hopes to inspire him to turn away from the wasteful life of a writer who would always need the support of someone else throughout life to pay his bills and to “make something of himself” in the solid world of the professions. Styron viewed those years as a life and death fight for “the survival of his very own soul.”

“I felt deeply his passion to become a writer but I admit that the book is filled with my own passion to resist conforming to the standards and mores of a very strong ‘Olde Virginia’ family and to become a writer myself,” Buxton said about her book. “At times I felt the voice from Bill was actually mine along with every other would-be artist here in Virginia or around the world who was once, or is now, crying out in his own family and community for the right of full freedom of expression along with the love and acceptance that all artists must finally have to live a happy and fulfilled life.

“I love this book, I love its message, I love its characters, and I love the heartfelt struggle to become who we are,” continued Buxton. “It was worth every tear, curse, wrung hand, nightmare, and grueling hour that I spent in its creation. It is a story that just had to be told.”

The book is available in hard back for $30 or paperback for $15 with tax, and can be purchased locally at the Southside Sentinel in Urbanna. It can be ordered from any book store or Brandylane Publishing Company, or from or Barnes & Noble.

Buxton will mail signed copies of her book to those who add $5 to the price to cover postage and packaging by writing her at Box 488, Urbanna, VA 23175.  

posted 06.04.2014

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