April 5, 2007
The Love Season
The Love Season by Elin Hilderbrand
Finished on 4/3/07
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)
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!