Monday, July 29, 2013

Lipman, Elinor (The Inn at Lake Devine)

I figured I'd simply skim this in preparation for book club, having already read it for an entirely different long-ago book club. It doesn't require skimming - it's light and fluffy enough to read in (literally) two days time. I am glad I read the whole thing through because it affected me differently this time around.

Lipman needs no introduction as the mother (grandmother?) of chick-lit. Her stories have just enough depth to be intriguing, always well speckled with a collection of strange and endearing characters, and requiring less than 30% of your brainpower to consume. They are, in essence, the perfect beach read. I think this book may be the most emblematic of her entire oeuvre. The depth is there - the perennial issue of the treatment of Jews in America - as are the collection of characters - the bigoted mother! the lackadaisical dad (both of them)! the French chef! the kooky crazy so-very-60s Catskills heiress! Lipman's forte is conversation - among all characters, the more the merrier - that isn't stilted so much as direct. Saying she uses simple sentences to get her point across is being too generous. Since she peppers all these conversations with clever witticisms, this is by no means a bad thing altogether.

What is in fact irritating are her quick plot shifts. Shifts that start ridiculously and end by placing her story precisely where she wanted it to be. This has the unfortunate side effect of unveiling her plot structure to be nothing more than a contrivance. And that's a pity, especially with a story clearly coming from a personal remembrance of what would have been a traumatic event for any 13-year-old Jewish girl. It's still a good beach read, but this time around I wanted it to be more than that.

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