Set over the course of a year, this book looks at an ensemble of different families in the neighborhood of Cobble Hill in New York, where everyone thinks they know everyone’s business. There’s the bestselling author with writers block, whose wife insisted they move to NY from the UK. There’s the school nurse whose son struggles to fit in at the expensive school he attends. The rock star whose wife is faking MS and who has a crush on the nurse. The inventor who never seems to know where his famous artist wife is.
Actually, there’s quite a lot of characters in this book. I did find sometimes I lost the thread, which one is Roy again? Whose child is called Shy? That doesn’t usually happen to me, but it did here. I think though the characters all have different stories, they don’t have a largely different voice. So if one walks into a room, it just takes you a second to place that person and their backstory and which family they belong to.
This book is by the author of the Gossip Girl series, and has a similar writing style to those. While those books were YA, this is definitely aimed at a more adult audience, but the narrative flow and the sense of humor, the focus on New York types and famous lives, feels updated but pleasantly familiar.
On the whole, I enjoyed this book. It’s a nice, quick moving read, and I liked the eccentricity of some of the characters. I think Elizabeth, who is a performance artist, was pretty great, totally preoccupied with herself and doing weird things all the time. She felt like a great parody of arty types who do a lot of attention seeking stuff that has little meaning, but purports to be deep. I also found the author struggling to write his next book really interesting. His sense of not really believing in himself and his writing process were good story elements for me, and I liked how no one read or finished reading his books. It made me laugh. I also really wanted to know what was going to happen to Mandy, who was faking MS and stealing people’s meal delivery services. She was kind of awful, but not one note awful.
So, I do think that this book has too many characters, and I will admit that it’s a bit of a light read, though not overly so. But I really liked that it’s lighthearted, sometimes quite funny, and doesn’t get too dark. I liked the way the author describes the neighborhood and how she skewers certain types, but in a fairly loving way. These are humans who are fallible, and ultimately, become part of a nice community with each other. Definitely a nice escapist read for right now.
Read It If: you like the author and/or are looking for a happy, dramatic read. I enjoyed it.
Thank you Simon & Schuster Canada for the Advance Copy of this book for review. All opinions are my own honest thoughts.
Cobble Hill is out October 20th.