Can reading change your life?
Following her acclaimed novel The Doctor's Daughter, award-winning author Hilma Wolitzer has now written a stirring tale about friendship, romance, inspiration, longing, and, especially, the love of good books. Summer Reading offers a seductive glimpse into the intersecting lives of three very different women.
Summer in the Hamptons means crowded beaches during the day and lavish parties in the evening, but Angela Graves, a retired English professor, prefers the company of Gabriel Garc'a Mr quez and Charlotte Bront. Her only steady social contacts are with the women in the reading groups she leads, among them, is wealthy Lissy Snyder, a beautiful newlywed who hosts the twice-monthly meetings of the Page Turners and takes pains to hide a reading disability and her emotional neediness. Hamptons local Michelle Cutty, Lissy's housecleaner, eavesdrops on the group's discussions-of books and gossip-when she's not snooping through Lissy's closets.
All three women secretly struggle with troubling personal issues that threaten the tenuous balance of their lives: Lissy, abandoned by her father in childhood, is now the unwilling stepmother of her husband's hostile children; Michelle, resentful of the moneyed arrogance of the jet-setting, seasonal "invaders," can't secure a commitment from her fisherman boyfriend; and solitary, bookish Angela still bears the shameful memory of a disastrous love affair that took place long ago.
As Angela encourages the Page Turners to identify with the literary heroines of Trollope and Flaubert, the books-in fact, the act of reading itself-will influence the tough choices the women must make. Stunningly evocative and richly imagined, Summer Reading explores the meaning and consequences of living an authentic life.
From the Hardcover edition.
The eighth novel from Wolitzer (The Doctor's Daughter) opens as Alyssa (Lissy) Snyder-trophy second wife, reluctant stepmom, and major dyslexic-hosts a summer book discussion group. She's hoping to catch the attention of Ardith Templeton, who initiated the group and who, with her husband Larry, commands center stage in the tony Hamptons social scene. Retired English professor Angela Graves conducts the group, assigns the readings and tries to inspire her charges to take life lessons from the likes of Jane Eyre and Madame Bovary. Lissy gamely tries to read enough pages (or search out enough online commentary) to appear prepared-but Ardith rarely shows up. Meanwhile, Lissy's husband dotes on his children and begins spending time with his first wife. First-person chapters alternate among Lissy, Angela (who picks over old regrets), and Michelle Cutty, a young local who works as Lissy's summer maid and who provides some class-based frisson. There are small pleasures, but the trio of pretty endings is too hurried (and in Lissy's case too unearned) to be satisfying. (May) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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May 21, 2007
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