Sunday, June 24, 2012

Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead

This well reviewed and well talked about novel is one of those rarities, it lives up to the hype.
A witty, sharp and very perceptive read with well drawn characters that blossom and shrink before your eyes, it has as its centre the Van Meter Family and the patriarch Winn whose life time struggle with certain issues comes to the fore during the 3 day period leading up to his daughter Daphne`s wedding.
In some ways this book is a romp and in others it is a journey, it also has aspects of the coming of age genre even if coming of age isn`t at 20 or 25, the author mainly through the character of Vinn asks many questions that would certainly resonate with people hitting those pesky 50`s! While coming of age has generally been a term used to describe the age group 18-25 I felt that Shipstead took it further and very cleverly showed that these feelings, developments and issues along with the growth and or change they bring can actually hit at any point in time.
This book is very funny in parts and I in fact laughed out loud at the hairdressers while reading it, it is also rather poignant and has times of sadness and frustration peppered throughout, certain characters obviously felt dislocated for various reasons from the hub dub of the wedding and the fact that you could feel this while reading it and understand their feelings only added to my reading experience. Her characters are real and so believable and their reactions and behaviour in most circumstances are universal.
I also felt that Shipstead didn`t pigeon hole or define her characters by gender and this just added to their development and the vividness they brought to the book,there was plenty of wedding froth and at times they were wacky but it was a wackiness we would all understand and empathise with, you understood why they did what they did. Some characters were more likeable than others but this always adds in my opinion to the reading experience and often gets you thinking about the whys and wherefores that you wouldn`t if you loved all the characters, in my experience to really enjoy a book its fine to dislike, even loath certain characters but  in this book the loathsome could be very funny.
A very enjoyable read, the ride en famille with the Van Meters and their family, friends and enemies was well worth every minute, I can`t wait for Maggie Shipstead`s next book. Available in T/paperback at all good book stores.

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