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April 5, 2007

The Love Season



The Love Season by Elin Hilderbrand
Contemporary Fiction
Finished on 4/3/07
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)



Book Description:

It’s a hot August Saturday on Nantucket Island. Over the course of the next 24 hours, two lives will be transformed forever.

Marguerite Beale, former chef of culinary hot spot Les Parapluies, has been out of the public eye for over a decade. This all changes with a phone call from Marguerite’s goddaughter, Renata Knox. Marguerite has not seen Renata since the death of Renata’s mother, Candace Harris Knox, fourteen years earlier. And now that Renata is on Nantucket visiting the family of her new fiancé, she takes the opportunity, against her father’s wishes, to contact Marguerite in hopes of learning the story of her mother’s life—and death. But the events of the day spiral hopelessly out of control for both women, and nothing ends up as planned.

Welcome to The Love Season—a riveting story that takes place in one day and spans decades; a story that embraces the charming, pristine island of Nantucket, as well as Manhattan, Paris and Morocco. Elin Hilderbrand’s most ambitious novel to date chronicles the famous couplings of real lives: love and friendship, food and wine, deception and betrayal—and forgiveness and healing.

After reading Cormac McCarthy's The Road, I was ready for something light and entertaining. I grabbed the first book that caught my eye on my nightstand TBR stack. I had received The Love Season from a PR rep back in December and was eager to finally make time for it. And it was just what I needed! It's a little bit of a "foodie" read, with some romance and a mystery thrown in, resulting in a very enjoyable story. I've never paid much attention to the cataloging data on the copyright page, but this time the information caught my eye:

1. Family secrets - Fiction
2. Nantucket Island (Mass.) - Fiction
3. Domestic fiction
4. Psychological fiction

Yep, that about covers it. I should also say that the novel reminded me just ever so slightly of Mrs. Dalloway, as the entire story takes place in a single day. (And, from one character's point of view, revolves around the planning and anticipation of a small dinner party, much like that of Clarissa Dalloway's).

I especially liked this passage, relating to Marguerite's passion for cooking and reading:

The phone call had come at eleven o'clock the night before. Marguerite was in bed, reading Hemingway. Whereas once Marguerite had been obsessed with food -- with heirloom tomatoes and lamb shanks and farmhouse cheeses, and fish still flopping on the counter, and eggs and chocolate and black truffles and foie gras and rare white nectarines -- now the only thing that gave her genuine pleasure was reading. The people of Nantucket wondered -- oh yes, she knew they wondered -- what Marguerite did all day, hermited in her house on Quince Street, secreted away from the eyes of the curious. Although there was always something -- the laundry, the garden, the articles for the newspaper in Calgary (deadline every other Friday) -- the answer was reading. Marguerite had three books going at any one time. That was the chef in her, the proverbial more-than-one-pot-on-the-stove. She read contemporary fiction in the mornings, though she was very picky. She liked Philip Roth, Penelope Lively, as a rule no one under the age of fifty, for what could they possibly have to say about the world that Marguerite hadn't already learned? In the afternoons, she enriched herself with biographies or books of European history, if they weren't too dense. Her evenings were reserved for the classics, and when the phone rang the night before Marguerite had been reading Hemingway. Hemingway was the perfect choice for late at night because his sentences were clear and easy to understand, though Marguerite stopped every few pages and asked herself, Is that all he means? Might he mean something else? This insecurity was a result of attending the Culinary Institute instead of a proper university -- and all those years with Porter didn't help. An education makes you good company for yourself, Porter had liked to tell his students, and Marguerite, when he was trying to convince her to read something other than Larousse Gastronomique. Wouldn't he be proud of her now.

Another favorite passage (says she who got married - the first time around - at 19):

"Nineteen is too young to get married," Dan said. "It should be illegal to get married before you've traveled on at least three continents, had four lovers, and held down a serious job. It should be illegal to get married before you've had your wisdom teeth out, owned your own car, cooked your first Thanksgiving turkey..."

Hilderbrand is a new author to me and I'm excited to see that she has four other books that sound appealing (especially Blue Bistro, about which I've heard good things). She also has a new book (Barefoot: A Novel) due out in July, which sounds like a good beach read. I wouldn't say The Love Season is a "feel good" beach read, but it is a page-turner with memorable characters and a delightful setting. I'll definitely be back for seconds!

12 comments:

  1. I like her writing - somehow it flows even though it skips around. I'm going to add this one to my list. Thanks, Les.

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  2. hahaha! I totally quoted from the same section in a post back in October.

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  3. This sounds like a great summer read. I think I'll be ready for something light and fun by July ... my reading list is VERY HEAVY lately!!! LOL!

    Thanks for another great review, Les.

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  4. Oh this sounds good. I've never heard of the author but I'll add her book to my TBR list.

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  5. A question -- you said it reminded you of Mrs. Dalloway. I've been reading Mrs. Dalloway for approximately 3 years and haven't finished it yet. It's not that hard to read is it?

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  6. I've never heard of this book! I loved the review. Not that I need any other books to add to my TBR!! As much as I love these blogs, it's hell on my wallet!

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  7. Booklogged - Her writing does flow quite smoothly, doesn't it? I have an idea for this book. Stay tuned!

    Sassymonkey - Ah ha! It was your wonderful review (and quote, which by the way I had forgotten all about!) that prompted me to put this on my TBR list and later on my Wish List (which is how the PR rep found me). So, thank you for introducing me to a new writer!

    Wendy - It's perfect for summer (or even spring). Got me in the mood for some sun and sand. As I mentioned to Booklogged, I have an idea for this book, so stay tuned.

    Iliana - I'd never heard of her either until I read Sassymonkey's review. I love the blogging world!

    Katya - No, it isn't written in the same fashion as Mrs. Dalloway (no stream-of-conscious writing!). Just the premise of preparing for a dinner and the narrative encompassing a single day. That's the only connection (at least that I derived from my reading). It is not at all difficult to read.

    Stephanie - Thanks. It's always pretty easy to review the books I enjoy.

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  8. Mentioning "MRS. DALLOWAY" made me want to run the opposite way, Les! LOL I'm glad you enjoyed it, but I think I'll wait a bit until my memories of Mrs. D. relinquish. :)

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  9. Oh, but Joy! Please see what I wrote to Katya. This is not written in the same vein as Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway! It's very readable and enjoyable. Please don't dismiss the book on that one particular comment in my review!

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  10. Les, I trust your judgment and won't let the "Mrs. Dalloway" comment cloud my thoughts in relationship to this book. How's that!?! :)

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  11. I wrote you a response yesterday, but it never appeared. I said something like:

    Not "light and entertaining" was it. Both my husband and I were surprised I read it. Not usually my type of book, and yet, even with the foreshadowing of her "action," I stayed with it. I gave it an A-, probably equivalent to your 4 out 5.

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  12. Joy - Sounds good!

    Nan - You're right. It didn't turn out to be a light and entertaining read after all, but I enjoyed the dual plotlines and characters. Have you read anything else by Hilderbrand?

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I may not answer your comments in a timely fashion, but I always answer. Check back soon!