Maggie Shipstead's stunning debut novel, Seating Arrangements is an irresistible social satire that is also an unforgettable meditation on the persistence of hope, the yearning for connection, and the promise of enduring love.
Winn Van Meter is heading for his family's retreat on the pristine New England island of Waskeke. Normally a haven of calm, for the next three days this sanctuary will be overrun by tipsy revelers as Winn prepares for the marriage of his daughter Daphne to the affable young scion Greyson Duff. Winn's wife, Biddy, has planned the wedding with military precision, but arrangements are sideswept by a storm of salacious misbehavior and intractable lust: Daphne's sister, Livia, who has recently had her heart broken by Teddy Fenn, the son of her father's oldest rival, is an eager target for the seductive wiles of Greyson's best man; Winn, instead of reveling in his patriarchal duties, is tormented by his long-standing crush on Daphne's beguiling bridesmaid Agatha; and the bride and groom find themselves presiding over a spectacle of misplaced desire, marital infidelity, and monumental loss of faith in the rituals of American life.
Hilarious, keenly intelligent, and commandingly well written, Shipstead's deceptively frothy first novel is a piercing rumination on desire, love and its obligations, and the dangers of leading an inauthentic life, heralding the debut of an exciting new literary voice.
©2012 Maggie Shipstead (P)2012 Random House Audio
"Maggie Shipstead is an outrageously gifted writer, and her assured first novel, Seating Arrangements, is by turns hilarious and deeply moving." (Richard Russo, author of That Old Cape Magic )
"Seating Arrangements is bursting with perfectly observed characters and unforgettable scenes. This gorgeous, wise, funny, sprawling novel about family, fidelity, and social class, is the best book I've read in ages." (Courtney Sullivan, author of Maine)
"A pitch-perfect debut from a master storyteller, Seating Arrangements is a rich and deep work: a smart, consuming novel that manages also to be delightfully funny. A romp of a book, with whales and weddings and wealth, it is, at its heart, a warning against the empty seductions of status and exclusivity." (Justin Torres, author of We the Animals)
Ever since Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections, there has been an onslaught of novels in which there is not a single likeable character, or even one with whom the reader can sympathize. I always finish books, even poorly written ones, but I can't bear to listen to Seating Arrangements any longer. There are just better things to do in life than to listen to a thread of a story about a bunch of shallow, narcissistic people. The writing is OK, perhaps carried by the good reading performance, but the plot is minimal and the characters boring and self-centered. Even an interesting villain would make this a better work.
No, because other writers do it better.
His voice is strong, deep and convincing -- the only thing about this book I liked.
There isn't enough here to cut, but perhaps the dirty old man sex scenes or the pathetic daughter craving love in any form scenes. It's just so depressing and tawdry.
I am sorry I bought this. The advertising reviews were grossly misleading.
Seating Arrangements was a really good book about family dynamics and relationships. I'm sure most people could relate to at least some of the characters. It helps to remind us that constantly striving for more is not the route to happiness.
Witty and insightful satire, characters I enjoyed following, wonderful writing. The narration fit the book well. Overall, a delightful, entertaining book!
No, it's too slow and tedious
Nobody goes anywhere or develops and learns anything
Yes but his characters were not particularly interesting
I won't read one of hers again
Very disappointed. Why choose a man to read this story? Why choose a man with no emotion to read this story? Never got "into" the characters -- didn't really care what happened to them.
So...you're telling me I can pay people to read books to me whilst I do other things?
Arguably the most interesting thing about this book is how polarized the listener reviews are...people either liked/loved the book, or were truly bored and annoyed with everything about it.
So if you're considering whether or not to download this, you need to figure out into which camp you fall.
To help you, I've constructed the following handy quiz:
John Cheever was:
b: a pretentious asshole
a: tragically anachronistic self-identified delusional isolationists
b: pretentious assholes
c: scary poisonous insects
I plan to listen to this book:
a: on the beach half-drunk
b: commuting on a shitty subway train while my pretentious asshole boss is at the beach probably half-drunk
c: what do you mean by plan?
In a book about a family with issues, an exploding dead whale is:
a: a finely-crafted literary representation of building family resentments
b a ridiculously obvious metaphor for a bunch of pretentious assholes
c: super gross
When if comes to Audible narrators, I prefer
a: whomever fits the tone of the book best
b: whomever feels like a comfortable old shoe and isn't a pretentious asshole
c: someone who doesn't sound like my rabbi
I identify with characters who:
a: are revealed slowly and have interesting backstories
b: get my interest and sympathy right away and don't bore me to sleep
c: exhibit poor judgement
ANSWER KEY: If you had mostly a's or c's, you will probably like this book, but if you had any b answers, this probably isn't your cup of tea.
A note on the narration: I think Arthur Morey--much as I love him--was seriously miscast here. His narration isn't waspy enough to be the voice of Winn (sorry but there's just too much New York Borough/LES in his diction) and his substandard raspy-lispy-falsetto female voices don't contribute much to a novel in which most of the characters are, in fact, female.
I'm not in the biz but for what it's worth if I could cast any narrator for this it would be Dylan Baker....
This was the most boring, slow moving book I have purchased. I have two hours left and honestly don't feel like I can get through it. The characters are unlikable-I could care less what happens to any of them.
Purchase if you need something to put you to sleep. If you are looking for a book with a good story line and great characters-pass it by.
I chose this book for a road trip with my wife based primarily on a positive review from Richard Russo. I was hoping for something Russo-like but this didn't come close. The main characters are really unlikeable and the story moves slowly. The narrator does a fair job given the source material. Making it to the end of this book was a chore.
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