A young woman with literary aspirations jumps at the chance to become a summer assistant for a prestigious author in Dukess’ bittersweet coming-of-age debut novel.
It’s June 1987, and Eve Rosen is star-struck as she walks up the driveway of the summer home of New Yorker writer Henry Grey, for the guests are “Truro’s summer elite, the writers, editors, poets, and artists who left their apartments in Manhattan and Boston around Memorial Day and stayed on Cape Cod into September.” An editorial secretary at Henry’s New York publisher, Eve is thrilled to meet the man whose correspondence with her, however brief, is the highlight of her job. She is also dazzled by Henry’s attractive son, Franny, and Henry’s aloof wife, the poet Tillie Sanderson. With dreams of becoming a writer, yet lacking confidence, Eve longs to join this world, so very different from her Jewish parents’ suburban, middle-class lifestyle. “I was buoyed by a sense of possibility. A tentative belief that I could have a creative life too.” Returning to Manhattan, Eve meets her boss’s new literary discovery, snobbish Jeremy Grand, who went to school with Franny. Jealous of Jeremy’s connections with the Greys and his early success, Eve reads his unpublished novel and is stunned by the power of his voice. Her doubts about her own abilities grow, but when Eve is bypassed for a promotion, she quits her job and accepts Henry’s offer to work as his research assistant for the summer. Her decision leads her to some hard (if somewhat predictable) truths that are exposed at the Greys’ annual book costume party. Eve is an appealing protagonist, naïve and yet assertive in trying to find her own voice as an artist.
Written with fresh confidence and verve, this first novel is a bibliophile’s delight, with plenty of title-dropping and humorous digs at the publishing scene of the 1980s. The lyrical evocations of the Cape Cod landscape will also enchant readers seeking that perfect summer read.