The act of reading ... begins on a flat surface, counter or page, and then gets stirred and chopped and blended until what we make, in the end, is a dish, or story, all our own.
— Adam Gopnik
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May 10, 2013
The View from Penthouse B
Just jumping back on to say that this book made me happy, and sometimes, that's all a book needs to do.
Several of Elinor Lipman's earlier books were set, or at least had some scenes in, Brookline, the town next door, where I lived until last summer, and I think that's part of what drew me to her fiction. Her characters walked by that dentist's office that you could see into, in the basement of that rambling brick house, when you got off the Green Line and walked up Amory Street, and another book was set in a women's college near my beloved second apartment - turned over-the-top condominium (communal wine cellar???) - turned bankrupt real estate speculation (hah! serves them right!!). Some of her books have a more serious subject (like The Inn at Lake Devine) and one of them became a movie with Helen Hunt and Colin Firth and Bette Midler (!!!) . But they're always sweet and funny, intelligent, sometimes a little preposterous.
This one is set in New York, in a Greenwich Village penthouse shared by Margot and her sister Gwen-Laura. Margot is the dramatic older sister; she has divorced her doctor-husband, Charles, who is in prison for fraud after artificially inseminating his patients the old-fashioned way, and then invested all her money with Bernie Madoff. Gwen-Laura, the middle sister, is still mourning her husband, Edwin, two years after his unexpected death, and their self-important younger sister, Betsy, suggests that they move in together to pool their almost-nonexistent resources. Margot is a 'professional blogger,' with only a couple of readers and no advertisers, and Gwen-Laura considers starting a matchmaking service for timid clients called Chaste Dates. When Margot meets Anthony, who has just lost his job at Lehman Brothers and his apartment, she invites him to live in the maid's room as a paying guest, and he becomes a friend, fashion consultant, and hectoring life-coach. When the sisters find Anthony's sister Olivia sleeping on their couch one morning, the reason that she's there takes things around the bend a little, and then Charles is paroled and just happens to find a tiny studio apartment in the same building. But by the time you're all the way around that bend, you might not mind, especially if you find that you're looking forward to riding the bus to and from your non-penthouse so you can spend a little more time with all of them.
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