Late Bloomer: A Memoir of School Days (Hardcover)
Half a century on, Nat Bickford revisits the predatory advances of two boarding school masters, one at Phillips Exeter, the other at Williston Academy, whose provocative behavior—sadistic in one case; tragic in the other—violated the genteel codes of prep school life in the late 1950's. Less cynical than Catcher in the Rye and more disturbing than A Separate Peace, the narrative benefits from the distance.
A distinguished New York lawyer buoyed by the sustaining warmth of a forty-six year marriage, Nat Bickford explores two bewildering relationships that marked his adolescent life. Chilson Leonard—temperamental, demanding and a player of favorites—at Exeter and G. McCall Maxwell—gentle, refined, encouraging and repressed—at Williston powerfully influenced, and nearly ruined Nat's late adolescence.
Nat went on to Harvard College and Columbia Law School, a successful career and a rich family life bearing no obvious teenage scars. Yet, the memories remained—unrevealed, unexamined and unresolved until he began sharing them with his wife who encouraged him to explore the separate invasions of Leonard and Maxwell, so at variance with the imagined sanctity of prep school life in the quiet years before the fractious exuberance of the 1960's. Written with restraint and grace, Late Bloomer reflects a time and place long gone, while exploring a theme that is as resonant as ever: the power of teachers to shape, inspire and, occasionally, disturb impressionable minds.
About the Author
Nathaniel Bickford was born in New York City in 1940 and grew up in suburban Westchester County. He attended Phillips Exeter Academy from 1953-55 and graduated from Williston Academy (now The Williston Northampton School) in 1957 and from Harvard College in 1961. After graduating from Columbia Law School in 1964, he practiced law in New York City until he retired in 2005. He lives in New York City with his wife of forty-six years, Jewelle, and summers in South Dartmouth, Massachusetts. They are the parents of two grown daughters, Laura Bickford and Emily Bickford Lansbury and have two granddaughters, Elizabeth Laura Lansbury and Natalie Rose Lansbury. Late Bloomer is Mr. Bickford's first book.
“Nathaniel Bickford has written a riveting book that captures with poignant simplicity the cruelty he faced as a youth at the hands of trusted adults. That the betrayal lay silent and unacknowledged beneath the seemingly privileged, preppy surface makes his story all the more disturbing and his ultimate resilience all the more moving.” —Jane Fonda, actor and activist, author of My Life So Far
“Nat Bickford's memoir about his prep school years back in the 1950's reads like a good novel. In this true story, you laugh and ache with the late bloomer as he comes of age, and you feel his fear when real monsters—academic sadists—materialize out of the vivid prose. Late Bloomer is a wonderful read, a roller coaster ride. It's both nostalgic—taking place in a peaceful time and place—and frightening. Fasten your psychic seat belts and have fun.” —Leslie Stahl, correspondent for CBS' 60 Minutes, author of Reporting Live