Thursday, May 23, 2013

Review: Seating Arrangements

Seating Arrangements
By Maggie Shipstead
Knopf June 2012
299 pages
From the library

Seating Arrangements

Winn Van Meter is setting off for the family's beloved sanctuary on the island of Waskeke. But he is not looking forward to this particular trip. His daughter Daphne is getting married and his usually calm summer home will be overrun by bridesmaids, extended family, and future in-laws. Everyone is a bit distracted - Daphne by her pregnancy, her sister Livia by her recent traumatic breakup, her mother Biddy by the craziness of wedding planning, and Winn by one of the alluring bridesmaids. 

This is one of those books where you know that the writing is strong and insightful. Ms. Shipstead is obviously a talented author. But somehow that doesn't translate into a book that you can't put down. It's a well-written satire, but at times it seems a bit too heavy handed. Perhaps that is the problem with much of satire - it creates so much distance between the reader and the characters.

Much of this novel is centered around social status. Winn is desperate to be accepted as a member of a golf club on the island. As a man who grew up with wealth and prestige, he finds himself stymied by changing social standing. He is actually confused by most of his life - the wife he doesn't pay much attention to, the daughters he never took the time to know, and the way time continues to march on without him. 

The characters who I found most fascinating were unfortunately the ones who got the fewest pages. I wanted to spend more time with Biddy and discover if her feelings about family and society matched those of her husband. I was also intrigued by Daphne's friend Dominique who might have been used more often as our eyes into this very dysfunctional family. Dominique does her own thing and seems to be one of the few sane members of the wedding party. Instead, we spend most of the book with Winn and his unwillingness to see beyond his perceived societal snub and Livia, who seems unable to move past the despair of her broken heart.

This might be a good read for a lazy summer day at your vacation home or if you are a reader who particularly appreciates a good satire of the upper crust vacationing on Martha's Vineyard. But for me, it didn't live up to the hype.



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10 comments:

  1. I haven't actually heard of this book before. At the start of your review I was intrigued, by the end I knew it wouldn't be a read for me, any time soon at least.
    Thanks for the review Lindsey!

    My Book Bubble

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    1. I'm tempted to say sorry, but maybe I should say I'm glad to have steered you away from a book you wouldn't like? Writing reviews of books that you didn't like can be difficult!

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  2. I know I'd seen a few mixed reviews for this one. I thought I'd check out what the folks at Goodreads had to say just now. Wow! It seems that people either loved it or hated it. I don't know whether or not to give this a try. Maybe? Maybe not!

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    1. I think it really depends on whether or not the synopsis appeals to you. I was hesitant to pick this one up and I should have listened to my gut!

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  3. I read your reviews as much for your opinions as for your writing, Lindsey! Great job :)

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    1. You are so kind. Thank you Kelly! :)

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  4. When this came out, I had no desire to read it. Then it kept winning awards and I was eager to read it. Perhaps now we're getting back to the happy medium where I can read it with lower expectations!

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    1. It is tough to read a book that everyone adores. Sometimes it's good to put a little distance between you as a reader and all the publication buzz!

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  5. Oh dear. Sorry it didn't work out for you. I have a copy here still to read so I hope I like it better than you did!

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    1. It's tough when you were excited about a book and then read a negative review. I hope you enjoy it, though!

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