Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Indiscretion by Charles Dubow

Indiscretion by Charles Dubow

Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks

Date: July 9,  2013

ISBN:  9780062201065

Pages:   400

Rating:  3 out of 5

Book Summary:   Harry and Madeleine Winslow have been blessed with talent, money and charm.  Harry is a National Book Award-winning author.  Madeleine is a woman of sublime beauty and grace.  The Winslows play host to a coterie of close friends and acolytes eager to bask in their golden radiance, whether they are in their bucolic East Hampton cottage, abroad in Rome, or in their comfortable Manhattan brownstone. 

One weekend Harry and Maddy meet Claire, who eagerly falls into their welcoming orbit.  But soon her reverence transforms into a dangerous desire and she no longer remains one of their hangers-on. 

A story of love, lust, deception and betrayal as seen through the omniscient eyes of Maddy’s childhood friend, Walter, a narrator akin to Nick Carraway in The Great Gatsby, Indiscretion is an irresistibly sensual page-turner.   

My Thoughts:  Personality and behavior has always interested me.   Infidelity, for example: cheating on a significant other, especially a spouse, is one of those behaviors I just don’t “get”.   It makes life messy, unhappy and complicated for the people directly involved and for many who are involved tangentially.  So I was interested in Indiscretion by Charles Dubow because I wondered if the cheater would be taken to task for what he did or if the author, himself a male, would gloss over the behavior.  I also hoped that Charles Dubow would portray the results of a spouse’s cheating.  Often it destroys the lives of the people they supposedly loved.  I still don’t understand cheating and, although Indiscretion is an interesting book and written well-enough to make me angry at times as well as sad, it didn’t provide any more insight or answers for cheating than I had going in.  I expect this is because there aren’t any.  But Dubow does show what can happen to a solid, loving family when one spouse cheats. 

Harry Winslow, a fiction writer, lives what many would consider a charmed life.  He  and his wife Maddy have a strong marriage and love each other like they did the day they were married twenty years ago.  They have a young son, Johnny, whom they fought hard to have.  He is their pride.   Thanks to Maddy, who has supported Harry in all ways, including financially, he’s been able to work at writing for years.  Currently, his first bestselling book was awarded the National Book Award.  When Indiscretion begins, Harry and Maddy are throwing one of their usual summer parties in the Hamptons to celebrate.  Harry is charming, funny, a great host and storyteller.  He appears to only have eyes for his beautiful wife, Maddy who is kind and witty. 

One of the guests at their party, Claire, isn’t that interested in her date, Clive, but wants a weekend in the Hamptons and the chance to meet the author, Harry Winslow.  Claire is in her early 20s and, of course, is “beautiful and alluring”.  She’s just starting out her publishing career so she has very little money.   Claire instantly falls in love with Harry and Maddy’s home and is  smitten with Harry.  She flirts with him then ingratiates herself with Maddy by offering to help in the kitchen.  Claire has found something she likes and wants:  Harry and Maddy’s life.  After some careful and subtle manipulation, she’s suddenly spending every weekend with the Winslows in the Hamptons. 

We soon see a different side of the charming, pleasant Claire, however, when she learns the Winslows are moving to Rome for a year once the summer’s over. Her poise and charm are replaced by a sullenness and anxiety.  She drinks far too much one night and when Harry drives her home, Claire throws herself at him, declaring her love and asking him not to go to Rome.  She beseeches him to run away with her which a flabbergasted Harry declines.  Claire slips away the next morning leaving a contrite note of apology and the Winslows move to Rome. 

From the title of the book, I was sure Dubow wasn’t finished with the saga of Claire and Harry, especially since the book was barely half over.  At this point in the story, I distrusted almost everything Claire said and did, believing it was all designed to serve her ulterior motive: Harry.  But then I stopped myself, wondering if I really thought she alone was to blame for whatever was growing between them.  Very few older men don’t respond to the flirtations of a young, beautiful woman. Given Harry’s personality, I suspect he went right along with Claire’s flirting and went out of his way to charm her with stories from his past and life anecdotes.   

After being in Rome a few months, Harry returns to NYC alone to meet with his publishers.  Unfortunately, the formulary aspect of this book means I expect every reader knows where the story is going.  Harry’s agent takes him to a publishing party where his presence is expected.  I’m sure you can all guess what comes next.  Shocker of shockers: Claire happens to be at the party.   Coincidence?  She’d have Harry think so. Claire seems genuinely surprised to see him.  Harry’s only too happy to see her, confirming suspicions that Harry’s interested.  So when their affair begins, I don’t think either one deserves the lion’s share of the blame.   They both know what’s at stake.  Harry has a responsibility to Maddy and Johnny, of course but Claire knows all about his family and how Harry loves them.   Claire behaves like a “typical mistress”, whining, cajoling, crying, and becoming angry when she’s denied time with him.  She wants to go to fancy, expensive restaurants and on vacations together etc.   As the story progresses, it doesn’t appear as if it’s going to end well.  You’ll have to read it to find out!   

Dubow includes an interesting vehicle in the story that made me question what was really happening with Harry and Claire.  Walter  is a high-powered attorney who never married.  He’s been friends with Maddy Winslow since she was a child.  They went to Yale together and he becomes a great friend to Harry as well.   He lives near the Winslows in Manhattan most of the year.  Summer weekends he spends at his family’s summer house next door to Harry and Maddy.  Suffice to say, Walter knows them well.  Walter becomes the narrator of this story from page 25 to the end.  I think he means well and wants to tell a true story.  He admits “I have tried to be as scrupulous as possible in my telling of it.”  The problem I have with Walter is that he’s in love with Maddy and has been for many years.   

At one point Walter tries to seduce Claire but she turns him down, seeing Walter more like an older brother.  As a result of his feelings for both women, Walter isn’t a reliable narrator.  He also admits that much of the story he tells is second-hand, culled from scribbles on legal pads, recalled memories and other sources that are inherently unreliable.  So it’s almost impossible to know if the story we get is unbiased.  Is it tainted by personal feelings and emotions, and if so, who’s? Harry’s or Walter’s or both depending where in the story we are. This is because much of what Walter tells us comes from a manuscript of Harry’s.  I can’t divulge more without giving away the ending. 

Ultimately, it’s the story of a cheating spouse with a woman who knew his family well but wanted their life to be her own.  And, as with so many tales of indiscretion, it doesn’t end well.  Indiscretion is well written.  I had strong feelings for the characters, and not always positive ones, which is a good thing as it means they were well developed and complex.  However, despite a few surprises, the book was really nothing more than a typical May-December story of cheating populated of beautiful people.  Of course there is the fallout to deal with, but this part of the book didn’t offer much in the way of new insights so if you’re looking for compelling psychological studies, this isn’t the book for you.  

Thank you to TLC Book Tours and William Morrow for a paperback copy of Indiscretion.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Stargazey Point by Shelley Noble

Stargazey Point by Shelley Noble

Publisher: William Morrow
Published: July 2013
ISBN: 978-0-06-225834-2
Pages: 384
Rating:   3 out of 5 

Book Summary: Once a popular South Carolina family beach resort, Stargazey Point’s beaches have eroded, businesses have closed and skyrocketing taxes are driving the locals away.  Stargazey Point, like Abbie Sinclair, is fighting to survive.
Devastated by tragedy, Abbie thinks she has nothing left to give, but slowly she’s drawn into the lives of the people around her, the Crispin siblings, each with their own secret fears.

My Thoughts:  Stargazey Point, set in South Carolina in a once thriving beachside community is a light and sweet, if not somewhat predictable story, ideal for hot summer days.  I was hoping for a story with a lot of southern flavor but was somewhat disappointed. However, there are some wonderful, charming and quirky characters in Stargazey Point that make this book a worthwhile read.   

 Beau, Marnie and Millie Crispin are elderly siblings.  They live together in a huge wood and stucco house with wrap-around porches on several acres of ocean-front property in Stargazey Point.  The Crispin’s home has become a ‘white elephant’ (albatross) for them in their old age.  Upkeep costs, as well as taxes, have forced the Crispins to think about selling, a common enough situation for many elderly.  Beau, Millie and Marnie hoped to leave the property to their niece, Celeste, who is also Abbie’s friend and the woman who sent her to Stargazey Point to convalesce. 

 Millie’s a sweet, thoughtful typical southern lady.  She loves dressing up for dinner, prefers dining on the best china with beautiful glasses and using the silver, treats everybody as a guest, bestowing them with her gracious manners and adores hosting fancy parties.  Millie finds the issue of selling too painful and refuses to think or talk about it.   She won’t let go of the past and voices the hope of recreating and reliving some of her favorite times.  Millie wants to throw an enormous birthday party for Beau’s 80th, for example.  She talks about opening the ballroom which hasn’t been used in years, redecorating it, hiring a string quartet and the best caterers.  Money doesn’t concern Millie: she’s only desperate to bring back the happiest times spent in Crispin House.  

 Beau drives his sister’s nuts but they love him.  He’s happiest whittling away at a piece of wood and always has the supplies he requires to do so bulging out of his pockets.  He knows nothing of Millie’s big plans for his 80th and wouldn’t care for them.  He’s a calm, quiet man who enjoys his solitude.  He ‘keeps his counsel’ and others feel comfortable and secure in his presence. 

Marnie is the most worldly of the three which shows in her attitude and mannerisms.  She’s observant and understands people.  Having traveled extensively, she knew what Abbie needed when she first arrived at Crispin House.  Marnie’s innate understanding of people often bonds her to others, as it bonded she and Abbie.  Sometimes, though, Marnie’s outspoken way puts people off! 

The Crispin siblings welcome Abbie into their home.  They quickly realize she’s sad, lonely, angry and restless.  They’re unaware of the devastating tragedy Abbie is grieving over.  But she’s unaware of the difficulties and sadness troubling Beau, Millie and Marnie.  Abbie soon realizes something’s amiss in Crispin house as well as in Stargazey Point.  It’s easy to see that the beautiful spot isn’t the glorious place it once was.   It’s possible that Abbie with her background nurturing the less fortunate and creating beauty where there was once despair can help the residents of Stargazey Point resurrect the beautiful beach community it once was.  But first the people of Stargazey Point might have to help Abbie get back on her feet, forgive herself and smile again.  Can this dysfunctional group of scared, flawed characters help and support each other and rebuild a crumbling town?  In this story of love, support and friendship it seems possible.  Life doesn’t always work out for the best but Abbie may discover it’s worth starting over and trying again.

Stargazey Point is a sweet, quirky little novel that’s a quick and light, a little too light for my tastes, generally, but great for the beach or those late sleepless nights.  I also would have loved to have this book in the hospital where it was distracting and difficult to concentrate except when reading about a beautiful place, on the ocean, where people are trying to overcome a myriad of troubles!


Thank you to TLC Book Tours and William Morrow Publishers for an ARC of Stargazey Point.