The Nest, by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney

the nestThe Nest has buzz. An excellent review by the New York Times. A huge advance payment to a first-time author from a publisher. It does not, however, have any characters I liked or could root for in his/her quest to attain a share of The Nest (egg).

faberge eggSummary

The Plumb siblings, (Leo, Jack, Bea and Melody) have been waiting. Waiting for years.
Counting their egg well before it hatched on Melody’s fortieth
birthday. Ignoring the concerns, counseling, and skepticism of friends, family, and lovers in a mutual, bull-headed reliance on the largesse that is to come. Frankly, none of them deserve their father’s well-planned beneficence.

It’s Leo, the eldest, who puts the nest into jeopardy with his incredibly selfish and stupid drug-addled behavior. The Plumb matriarch (widowed, remarried and the apparent source of her children’s disagreeable personalities) uses the nest rather than her own funds to solve Leo’s problems. Leo promises Jack (selfish, narcissistic, insecure), Bea (bland, depressed, colorless), and Melody (overbearing, self-pitying, stalker) he will repay the money. And ignoring all family and non-family history of big brother’s behavior, the siblings believe him.

New York Times Review

The New York Times review included the following passage:

28BOOKSWEENEY-superJumbo

Photo of the author by Lisa Whitman for the New York Times

Ms. Sweeney takes her story to Grand Central Terminal, and to the sequence she has said gave her the idea for “The Nest” in the first place. What if a group of siblings were forced to meet for lunch at the Oyster Bar, but each one of them required a fortifying belt at another place before the actual family meeting? It could tell readers a lot about the family in general and the characters as individuals, too.

It’s a handy trick, just right for the Nancy Meyers movie that “The Nest” could easily become. Ecco reportedly paid a disproportionately big advance for this book. But consider what Ms. Meyers or a similar director could do with four adorably mixed-up siblings and their romantic woes, crazy run-ins and rich-person problems. So what if the book isn’t very funny? Neither are those movies, and that hasn’t stopped them.  http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/28/books/review-in-the-nest-a-family-pot-to-split-sets-sibling-relations-to-a-slow-boil.html?_r=0

I couldn’t disagree more. Nancy Meyers wouldn’t touch this with a ten-foot pole. There’s not much humor, no one to like or root for, and frankly, The Nest isn’t funny. At all. I’m not sure it it’s even supposed to be. To me, it read like a strident warning — not just about the family dynamics of inheritance but of the people we can become in our attempts to control others.

From the Book

He was tired of gossip. God, was he tired of gossip. By the time he sold it, SpeakEasyMedia had fully morphed into the very thing Leo most loathed. It had become a pathetic parody of itself, not any more admirable or honest or transparent than the many publications and people they ruthlessly ridiculed—twenty-two to thirty-four times a day to be exact, that was the number the accountants had come up with, how many daily posts they needed on each of their fourteen sites to generate enough clickthroughs to keep the advertisers happy. An absurd amount, a number that meant they had to give prominence to the mundane, shine a spotlight of mockery on the unlucky and often undeserving—publishing stories that were immediately forgotten except by the poor sods who’d been fed to the ever-hungry machine that was SpeakEasyMedia. “The cockroaches of the Internet,” one national magazine had dubbed them, illustrating the article with a cartoon drawing of Leo as King Roach. He was tired of being King Roach. The numbers the larger media company dangled seemed huge to Leo who was also, at that particular moment, besotted with his new publicist, Victoria Gross, who had come from money and was accustomed to money and looked around the room of Leo’s tiny apartment the first time she visited as if she’d just stepped into a homeless shelter.

My book club really liked the book. And I have to say I did take a lot from reading it. It was well-written, quick-witted, and I certainly learned a few lessons from it. Who not to be.

MENU

There’s an Italian, spring-themed dinner planned that is the denouement:

“Walker had lined the table with platters of bread and cheese, tiny ceramic bowls of olives. He’d scattered lemons and twigs of rosemary down the center.”

In addition, Walker served:

Champagne

Lemonade

Chicken scaloppini

Limoncello for dessert

Coconut cake

MUSIC

This is a stream-of-consciousness list inspired by my reading – some are mentioned in the text.

Just the Way You Look Tonight, Harry Connick, Jr.

Heartbreaker, Pat Benatar

You Make Me Feel Like Dancing, Leo Sayer

Jumpin Jack Flash, The Rolling Stones

I Will Survive, Gloria Gaynor

All By Myself, Eric Carmen

Unchained Melody, The Righteous Brothers

Paperback Writer, The Beatles

MOVIE CASTING

Leo — Ben Affleck

Jack — Robert Downey, Jr.

Bea — Laura Linney

Melody — Laura Dern

Stephanie –Amy Adams

Walter — John C. Reilly

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Family Secrets: The Lake House by Kate Morton

lake house

Lake house in Albany, NY from Albany archives

Sadie Sparrow, forced into vacation from her post as detective with the London Metropolitan police department for her work on a missing mother case, retreats to Cornwall circa 2003 to visit her grandfather Bertie. While there, she finds an abandoned lake house — Loeanneth — the ancestral home of the deShiel family where a notorious crime occurred in 1933: the youngest child of Lord Anthony Edevane and his wife Eleanor deShiel Evevane  went missing.

So begins Kate Morton’s historical fiction, whodunit, Gothic romance, police procedural The Lake House. It has everything! A meet cute! An affair! A revenge plot! Tunnels! Fired servants! Charming grandpa! Pig-headed detectives! A crime novelist! And lots (and lots and lots and lots) of scenic detail. Grasses waving, winds whispering, brooks babbling, minds wandering, backstories telling, etc . . .

Midsummer-Ball_LgIt all began in 1933 at the Edevane’s Midsummer Party. Which actually was the deShielx tradition continued by Lord Anthony Edevane and Eleanor after Anthony rescued Loeanneth as a post-wedding, posf-suprise lordship gift for his wife.

So it all began in 1914ish when Anthony and Eleanor mlipton teaet cute: Anthony saved Eleanor from being run down on the streets of London by a bus bearing a Lipton tea ad on her way to see some tigers.

Actually, it all began in 2003 when Sadie Sparrow, incensed by the pigheaded of her superiors to consider her theory that a child’s mother has been murdered rather than run away, goes to the media and plants her theory in contravention of her orders. She is then placed on involuntary administrative leave by her partner where she discovers — Loeanneth. And a mystery she can sink her teeth into: the disappearance of 9 month old baby Theo.

Or perhaps it began when Eleanor was a child and her father’s best friend, Mr. Llewellyn, wrote a book for her that became a childhood classic.

Throughout The Lake House, each thought becomes a complex reference to the past and that reference is connected to another memory which strings along to the present or future.

The best view of the lake was from the Mulberry Room but Alice decided to mae do with the bathroom window. Mr. Llewellyn was still down by the stream with his easel, but he always retired early for a rest and she didn’t want to risk an encounter. The old man was harmless enough, but he was eccentric and needy, especially of late, and she feared her unexpected presence his room would send the wrong sort of signal. She’d been enormously fond of him once, when she was younger, and he of her. Odd to think of it now, at sixteen, the stories he’d told, the little sketches he’d drawn that she’d treasured, the air of wonder he’d trailed behind him like a song. At any rate, the bathroom was closer than the Mulberry Room, and with only a matter of minutes before Mother realised the first-floor rooms lacked flowers, Alice had no time to waste in climbing stairs.
The Lake House has interesting characters, a multi-dimensional plot, several elements of mystery and yet, at least in the audio version, it was at times a behemoth read (21 hours and 24 minutes!). The printed version is 512 pages long. If you love English-ness in your fiction, you will appreciate The Lake House. It seems a bit long for my book club, but there may be some that would lustily attack the pages, the details and the mysteries. There is certainly an abundance of food.
vintage_fun_family_picnic_under_a_shade_tree_postcard-ra8ff505f073d4a78aa2c5dff9c20ccc2_vgbaq_8byvr_324
MENU
TEA. Dearie me, if you played a drinking game every time tea is mentioned in this book you would be drunk by page 5.
During one particularly significant picnic, Eleanor provides
Ham Sandwiches
Cox’s Orange Pippins (an apple!)
Cake
There is also mention of “bully beef” (Corned beef) and tinned milk.
And Pear Cake.
From Chocolate and Zucchini, a lovely food blog, here’s a recipe for Pear Cake. It sounds delicious and I can’t wait to try. http://chocolateandzucchini.com/recipes/cakes-tarts/my-grandmothers-pear-cake-recipe/
MUSIC
Music wasn’t incredibly important to the plot of The Lake House but some of the names of the characters were incredibly musical. I think I will make a play list based on character’s names.
Alice — Sweet Little Alice Blue Gown
Deborah — Deborah by The Crickets
Clementine — Darling Clementine, folk song
Eleanor — Eleanor Rigby by The Beatles
Ben — Ben by Michael Jackson
Bertie — Bertie by Kate Bush
Anthony — Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song) by Billy Joel
Sadie — Sadie by James Taylor
Isn’t that fun?!?!
Casting lake house book
Young Alice — Saoirse Ronin
Sadie — Kelly Reilly (love her in season two of True Detective)
Anthony — Jude Law
Eleanor — Sienna Miller
Ben — Jamie Dornan
Old Alice — Judi Dench
Bertie — Michael Gambon
HAPPY READING!
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Eleanor & Park, by Rainbow Rowell

eleanor

     Someone once told me that I should marry my first love.  If I did that, she assured me, I would miss the worst pain of heartbreak that comes from tearing yourself away from your first love.  And we (my first love and I) would forever share the tender, open, honest relationship that no one ever has after that first broken heart.  A love that age and experience (and past hurts and regrets) just won’t allow you to feel.

     A relationship like the one shared by Eleanor and Park, Rainbow Rowell’s fictional misfit lovers.  Eleanor, the new girl in school, is too beautiful and mature to be accepted by anyone so she is shunned.  This is 1986, when vintage clothes were strange and young ladies had to wear those horrible (HORRIBLE!) one-piece polyester unitards for gym class.  Park, a cool kid with a Korean mom and a former American service man dad who are still deeply in love, finds himself stuck with sitting next to her on the school bus simply because he is the only one not cruel enough to turn her away.  As the school year progresses, Park finds himself magnetically drawn to the girl in the weird clothes who makes the intelligent comments in English class.  The girl with “adorable cheeks.  Dimples on top of freckles . . . and a face shaped like a box of chocolates.”

vintage_valentines_day_blonde_girl_w_chocolates_postcard-p239223526936170185en8sh_325

     If Eleanor and Park all sounds a bit . . . Shakespearean, Rowell intends it to.  Early in the novel, which is classified as Young Adult by the way (despite the many adult book clubs reading it), Eleanor and Park‘s English class reads Romeo & Juliet.  Eleanor and the teacher Mr. Stessman discuss the tragedy.

“No . . . ” she  said.  “I just don’t think it’s a tragedy.”

 “It’s the tragedy,” Mr. Stessman said.

 She rolled her eyes.  She was wearing tow or three necklaces, old fake pearls, like Park’s grandmother wore to church,and she twisted them while she talked.  “But he’s so obviously making fun of them,” she said.

 “Who is?”

  “Shakespeare.”

   “Do tell . . .”                                         tumblr_l59hvs1GWG1qccbedo1_1280

She rolled her eyes again.  She knew Mr. Stessman’s game by now.  “Romeo and Juliet are just two rich kids who’ve always gotten every little thing they want.  And now, they think they want each other.  . . . They don’t even know each other.  . . . If Shakespeare wanted you to believe they were in love, he wouldn’t tell you in almost the very first scene that Romeo was hung up on Rosaline.  . . . It’s Shakespeare making fun of love,” she said.

     Mr. Stessman begs another student, “one with a heart,” to redefine the play and explain why this play has survived four hundred years.  Park, unwittingly does.  “Because people want to remember what it’s like to be young?  And in love. . . . Is that right?”  Park asked.

     That afternoon, Eleanor speaks to Park on the bus.  And they fall in love.  And as you know, the course of true love never did run smooth.  Ms. Rowell herself said in an interview that she believes you can find real love at a young age, but it is incredibly hard to make it last.  http://teenlitrocks.com/2013/02/20/eleanor-and-park-author-rainbow-rowell/  That’s the trick, isn’t it?  To find love and make it last . . . in a way that doesn’t involve a suicide pact?

    Throughout Eleanor and Park, I was reminded of Romeo And Juliet.  The absolute certainty of those two young lovers (and their friends) that immediate action must be taken, that their instincts must be correct and that time is the enemy of love.  A sweet melancholy infuses the passion.  At the age of 17, that is life.  And it will never be that way again.  Romeo describes his first sight of Juliet.

Oh, she doth teach the torches to burn bright!
It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night
Like a rich jewel in an Ethiope’s ear,
Beauty too rich for use, for earth too dear.
So shows a snowy dove trooping with crows
As yonder lady o’er her fellows shows.
The measure done, I’ll watch her place of stand,
And, touching hers, make blessèd my rude hand.
Did my heart love till now? Forswear it, sight!
For I ne’er saw true beauty till this night.
     Read Eleanor & Park.  Read Romeo & Juliet.  Marry your first love.  At least two of the three are still possible.
BOOK CLUB MENU
Red wine — Eleanor’s mother serves lots of red wine at parties before her divorce
Turkey with stuffing
Mashed potatoes
Rice pudding
3/4 cup uncooked white rice
2 cups milk, divided
1/3 cup white sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg, beaten
2/3 cup golden raisins
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Bring 1 1/2 cups water to a boil in a saucepan; stir rice into boiling water. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes.
In a clean saucepan, combine 1 1/2 cups cooked rice, 1 1/2 cups milk, sugar and salt. Cook over medium heat until thick and creamy, 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in remaining 1/2 cup milk, beaten egg, and raisins; cook 2 minutes more, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in butter and vanilla.
MUSIC
The book is full of music.  Actually, Eleanor and Park bond through Park sharing music with Eleanor.  He makes her tapes of his favorites music, The Smiths, The Cure … bands she’s never heard of.  She returns his gift by sharing with him the Beatles’ Rubber Soul.  How can you beat that?
As an update: I queried author Rainbow Rowell about her own playlist for Eleanor and Park. She responded that she has it posted on her Spotify profile. So if you’re on Spotify and want to listen to what Rainbow Rowell was listening to, go get it!
Happy Reading!
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