Tuesday, January 31, 2012
Nothing makes you feel happier about your family than reading about someone else's dysfunctional family..and this family is doozy!
Alice is the matriarch. But she isn't lovable or grandmotherly. She is prickly.
Alice's family has been coming to the beach for years. At first it was a happy affair, cousins and family piled up for a summer stay in their cozy beach shack. But things have evolved over the years, things like dislike and summer schedules. The family mostly still returns to the beach house, but in shifts - never over lapping.
This summer, however, things will be different.
Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan.
Author Emily Wilson is heartbroken. While struggling through a divorce, she receives an invitation to her ex-husband's wedding. Awful circumstances. So when her Great Aunt Bee calls her back to Bainbridge Island for a few weeks, Emily has nothing to lose. She heads back to a spot that she had much fondness for during childhood, thinking she will both write and heal herself.
While settling in one night, Emily finds a red velvet diary in her bedside table, one that has an intriguing story. She cautiously chooses not to ask her Aunt about it. The story is both heartbreaking and fascinating, a story that has roots in Bainbridge Island and touches everyone that Aunt Bee knows.
This is a story that will pull you in and intrigue you...until you get to the end. I liked the writing and I liked the idea of the plot, but I couldn't help but feel the author pulled a big trick on her readers by obscuring the truth about her characters.
After reading and loving Rules of Civility, History of a Pleasure Seeker was recommended. Author Richard Mason gives us a glimpse of Amsterdam in the early 1900s through the eyes of Piet Barol. Piet is a shameless social climber. After living a modest life with his father on a college campus, Piet longs to have the finer things in his life. He takes the lessons that he has learned from the affluent college students and applies to be a tutor.
The Vermeulen-Sickerts are rich and powerful, but their son, Egbert, has a mix of agoraphobia and schizophrenia. He battles monsters daily that keep him inside and force him to follow a rigid schedule, denying himself any real pleasure in life. They hire Piet, hoping to break Egbert out of his shell.
Piet ensconces himself both with the family and with the household staff, enjoying the experiences of both worlds. He charms the Vermeulen-Sickerts sisters, he is taken into the confidences of Mr. Vermeulen-Sickerts. Eventually Piet cracks the code of Egbert's mind and as a reward, is given a large sum of money. As a result, he is finally able to buy his dream, only to find that nothing is what it seems.
This book was interesting and quick to read, but a little too sexual in nature for my comfort. :)
Our heroine, Katey, starts out as a poor girl sharing a room in a boarding house with her friend, Eve. Eve is glamorous in a way that Katey admires, but doesn't necessarily envy. One night when they're out at a jazz club, they meet a wealthy bachelor, Tinker. He is fun, young, and wealthy, and he treats the girls to several dates. Katey finds herself falling for Tinker when something happens that strains the fabric of the friendships between the three. Katey finds herself on the outside of what used to be a cozy triangle and decides it is time to make her way on her own in NYC.
Through some interesting circumstances in her career, Katey finds herself moving up in the world. She also finds herself in new social circles. She dates a few guys, trying to find someone that fits what she is looking for, several of them charming.
Tinker and Eve eventually have a falling out and separate, Tinker finds his way back to Katey and they have a relationship, but it is a shadow of the way things could have been and Katey knows it. Katey has grown into herself over time, however, and she finds that Tinker's affections neither control or determine her course.
It is such a fascinating story and I loved the way that Amor Towles made me feel like I was one of Katey's friends, enjoying the martinis and jazz clubs of NYC. It was a dazzling novel.