Despite Shipstead’s flair for language and scene setting, her characters are worse than cartoonishly unlikable—they are,...

SEATING ARRANGEMENTS

New England blue bloods suffer through three days of wedding festivities in Shipstead’s debut, a bleak comedy of manners—think a modern-day Edith Wharton on downers.

Winn Van Meter (Deerfield, Harvard), a banker apparently oblivious to the recession, and his stoic wife Biddy (ancestors on the Mayflower) are throwing a wedding for daughter Daphne (Deerfield, Princeton) on the Massachusetts island where they always summer. Winn certainly approves of Daphne’s fiancé, whales-on-his-belt preppy Greyson Duff, whom she met at Princeton and whose parents own the entire Maine island where they summer. He is less thrilled that Daphne is 8 months pregnant. To make matters worse, Daphne’s younger sister Livia (Deerfield, Harvard) was impregnated by her Harvard boyfriend, Teddy, around the same time. What sticks in Winn’s craw is not Livia’s pregnancy or the abortion after her Teddy dumped her, but rather the embarrassment she caused by announcing her pregnancy in a drunken rage one evening at the Ophidian, a Harvard club. Winn takes club membership very seriously. Even his dangerous attraction to Daphne’s bridesmaid Agatha (Deerfield) is less compelling than his desire to get into the Pequod Club where he’s been lingering on the waiting list; ironically, Teddy’s parents, whom Winn treated badly in his college days (the Vietnam era although Winn hardly noticed) have influence at the Pequod. Once Greyson’s family arrives, a game of sexual musical chairs begins. Winn plays around with Agatha in the laundry room. Pursued by Greyson’s self-proclaimed Buddhist brother Francis, Livia instead hooks up with his black sheep oldest brother Sterling. The next day Livia and Winn walk into the garage and catch Sterling in flagrante delicto with Agatha, whose predatory sexual appetite is never explained. More embarrassing if less sexual incidents follow. The one outsider, bridesmaid Dominique (Deerfield, U. of Mich., but Egyptian!!), observes their escapades with a jaundiced eye.

Despite Shipstead’s flair for language and scene setting, her characters are worse than cartoonishly unlikable—they are, with the exception of Dominique, yawn-provokingly uninteresting.

Pub Date: June 12, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-307-59946-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2012

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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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A touching family drama that effectively explores the negative impact of stress on fragile relationships.

A WEEK AT THE SHORE

A middle-aged woman returns to her childhood home to care for her ailing father, confronting many painful secrets from her past.

When Mallory Aldiss gets a call from a long-ago boyfriend telling her that her elderly father has been gallivanting around town with a gun in his hand, Mallory decides it’s time to return to the small Rhode Island town that she’s been avoiding for more than a decade. Mallory’s precocious 13-year-old daughter, Joy, is thrilled that she'll get to meet her grandfather at long last, and an aunt, too, and she'll finally see the place where her mother grew up. When they arrive in Bay Bluff, it’s barely a few hours before Mallory bumps into her old flame, Jack, the only man she’s ever really loved. Gone is the rebellious young person she remembers, and in his place stands a compassionate, accomplished adult. As they try to reconnect, Mallory realizes that the same obstacle that pushed them apart decades earlier is still standing in their way: Jack blames Mallory’s father for his mother’s death. No one knows exactly how Jack’s mother died, but Jack thinks a love affair between her and Mallory’s father had something to do with it. As Jack and Mallory chase down answers, Mallory also tries to repair her rocky relationships with her two sisters and determine why her father has always been so hard on her. Told entirely from Mallory’s perspective, the novel has a haunting, nostalgic quality. Despite the complex and overlapping layers to the history of Bay Bluff and its inhabitants, the book at times trudges too slowly through Mallory’s meanderings down Memory Lane. Even so, Delinsky sometimes manages to pick up the pace, and in those moments the beauty and nuance of this complicated family tale shine through. Readers who don’t mind skimming past details that do little to advance the plot may find that the juicier nuggets and realistically rendered human connections are worth the effort.

A touching family drama that effectively explores the negative impact of stress on fragile relationships.

Pub Date: May 19, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-11951-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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