I felt so many things with this book. While Fowler's more recent book, A Good Neighborhood, is completely different than this, her first book, both show her skill for stripping her characters down and laying bare all the things that makes them human, warts and all.
I almost didn't read this book. I wasn't really looking forward to it. After reading Bear Town about a year ago, which I didn't care for, I was afraid that this book wouldn't live up to the hype. But start it I did, and I'm glad for it.
equal parts a cautionary tale of what can result from ignoring mental illness, as well as an in-depth look at family dynamics and relationships, from the secrets we keep to the misunderstandings that cause strife. Gunnis takes us on this journey, keeping us guessing the whole way, and faithfully leads us to the end in such a way as to be bereft with the finish of this stunning piece of fiction.
The author's writing was probably the best part of the book. Her way with words is admirable, and I could almost see, hear and smell the area of Brittany through her words. She also was, at times, very prosaic, which I appreciate as well. Her writing really brought the scene to life, but that's probably the only redeeming feature of this book.
The author takes us back to the mid-century glam of 1952 New York City and the Barbizon Hotel for women, with a glimpse into the way of life for unmarried, career women in New York City at this time. Feeling alone, homesick and out of place amidst her Ford model neighbors, Darby meets Esme, a smart, scrappy maid / coatcheck girl, and is introduced to a whole new side of New York City, and the dawning realization that maybe, just maybe, she could make a home for herself there after all.
With wit, grit, and heart, we watch as this teen mom and culinary magician navigates high school, motherhood, and learns to trust in herself enough to go after what she wants.
Just like GWYF, there is a lot of wisdom and actionable advice in this book, told in the same no-nonsense, listen-up girlfriend kind of way. This time around, I was so much more prepared for the book and I actually treated this book like I would a college course book, taking copious notes, marking down specific passages that spoke to me, and thinking about how I could actionably apply her advice to my own life.
This novel explores the disparity between whites and BIPOC, between socioeconomic classes, and, to a lesser extent, between the genders that is still so relevant today in the wake of the unjustified police brutality against people of color, the #metoo movement, and the power imbalance associated with these things, as well as the very real fear that exists for the victims in each of these scenarios. More specifically, it explores the entitlement and hubris of the wealthy white male in society today, a society which hasn't come as far as we would have hoped by this point in time.
I worried that this book wouldn't be as good as The Alice Network, mostly because so many of the WWII lit I've read lately has been mediocre. BUT, I shouldn't have worried at all because Ms. Quinn obviously knows her stuff.
This day in age, there are so many "romance" novels out there with a romantic interest who is gorgeous and charming, but broody, and sensitive and vulnerable, but smotheringly possessive, just like Lee Brightman in this story. The difference is that in this story, those qualities show themselves for what they truly are: dangerous.