Silver (The Summer Invitation, 2014, etc.) tracks the friendship of two college grads attempting to make it in New York.
Why attend Bennington, an elite college in Vermont? “To have something interesting to talk about at cocktail parties on Fifth Avenue,” thinks Pansy Chapin, a moneyed graduate and one of this novel’s minor characters. She’s being facetious, but this comment retains a grain of truth as Silver taps into the particular insular culture that stays with the school's graduates—especially best friends Sylvie Furst and Cassandra Puffin—once they leave. Sylvie, who moves to New York almost immediately, is a self-starter with dreams of her own line of artisanal foods, while Cassandra is assured but unfocused, falling into a administrative job and running through a string of luxuriously rich Harvard boyfriends. After a failed relationship, Cassandra moves into Sylvie’s Fort Greene apartment, and at first their life in the city is exciting as they navigate New York’s Bennington social scene. But the friendship begins to fracture as the two clash on work ethics, views on monogamy, and money. It seems the real world is tearing them apart. There are snippy arguments, then dramatic blowouts—and, when the girls are no longer speaking, a chance meeting years later that shows how starkly New York has changed them both. It’s unclear whether their relationship will ever restart. Silver has written a fun read with lots of snarky humor (Sylvie worries about becoming trapped in a “gray crust of sexlessness”; the girls talk about former classmates: “And anyway, she’s the heiress to the coffee-cake fortune! She could afford to keep the baby”). Although she successfully captures a postgrad subculture, Silver maintains too much narrative distance from her characters. She comments on Cassandra’s and Sylvie’s superficial foibles but never plumbs their full emotional depths; in a relationship-based novel, this may leave readers dissatisfied.
A caustically witty novel but one that rarely interrupts its superficiality to deliver a deeper meaning.