MIDSUMMER by Marcelle Clements


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Middle-aged New Yorkers share a Hudson River country house in a second novel from Clements (Rock Me<\I>, 1989).

Susie, Kay, Dodge, Ron, Elise, and Susie’s son Billy (he’s 24) arrive, settle in, and lounge around in wicker chairs until someone makes the inevitable comparison to a Chekhov play. Then someone else discovers that insects are crawling around. This topic quickly exhausted, it’s time to resort to the sophisticated city dweller’s stock complaint: the futility of life and love. Yes, this weary band has been disappointed many times, and no one knows what it all means. Yet Susie is happy enough with her maternal improvisations on behalf of Billy, and she realizes that being single has its advantages. Tick-tock, the sound of a biological clock interrupts the balmy summer eve: Kay, after a traumatic miscarriage following a break-up, still yearns for a child. But Susie’s former lover, sexy, motorcycle-riding Dodge, an unrepentant womanizer and noted painter, stares at eggs, not Kay, and thinks deep thoughts. His sidekick, the vaguely comedic Ron, frets silently and wonders why the women ignore him, even though Elise, the youngest, obviously has no money and no man. Back to Susie, who wonders sophomorically if fantasies are more attractive than reality: “It was odd: she still had desire for desire, but almost never desire itself. But that was interesting, in a way.” Her other note to self: “It was amazing how much everyone in this house thought about sex and how there actually was no sex.” To alleviate the ennui, the author thoughtfully throws in a few locals to give at least the appearance of temptation—the sinewy carpenter swings a hammer, the nubile au pair stretches in the sun. There are card games, lap swimming, and a trip or two to the tavern to play pool, leading to a brawl with more colorful locals. Still, nothing happens. Billy and Kay begin a brief, poignant love affair. And then, more nothing. Summer ends.

Pointless and generally unfunny, from the hipper-than-thou Clements (The Improvised Woman: Single Women Reinventing Single Life, 1998, etc.).

Pub Date: May 1st, 2003
ISBN: 0-15-100836-1
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Harcourt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 2003