Thursday, June 14, 2007

SUMMER READING by Hilma Wolitzer

Summer is officially here -- the kids are out of school and it is getting hot here in California.
Last weekend I started my summer reading with Summer Reading by Hilma Wolitzer. I picked it because I am a long time fan of Hilma Wolitzer, because the synopsis peaked my interest and because of the title, of course. Here’s the official information – “Summer Reading offers a seductive glimpse into the intersecting lives of three very different women.” For the rest of the official synopsis, skip my comment and jump to the italics below. The book was a great combination of substance and entertainment. By building the book around a group of contemporary women reading the classics Wolitzer highlights her belief that women’s interior lives have not changed much over the centuries. Done with a deft touch and a sense of humor it actually made me want to pick up and reread Trollope! I know these women. Or at least I recognize them in myself and some of my friends, which made this an easy read. I recognize their struggles, as well, which made it substantive. If you’re looking for quiet, thought provoking summer getaway this is definitely a great choice! I recommend it! So here is the official stuff: 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 García Márquez and Charlotte Brontë. 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, theact 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.

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