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sam608
Posts: 9
Registered: ‎12-03-2008
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Re: Chapters One through Five

I'm enjoying the book so far, and I've only read the first two chapters, but I keep feeling it remines me of something....something I've read before or a movie.  Something, I can't put my finger on it but a group of friends, for years, with histories, etc.  Isn't there a movie that starts out its introductions with a wedding (and no, I'm not talking about The Godfather....)

 

I thought the sex scene was strange too, I didn't understand it.....meaning, I didn't understand the covering Beth eyes and cloth wrapped around her throat.  I thought maybe they were heading to some kind of snuff thing and I didn't like that.  I guess it was suppose to be more of a sensual thing then loving.  I'm curious where all this will lead though.

 

I think Beth has alot more issues that we're going to learn about in the next chapters.  I'm not impressed with David, remines me of too many guys I've known thru the years....But I do like the others, not sure about Sadie yet though.

 

 

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Amanda-Louise
Posts: 156
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Chapters One through Five

I found the first chapter very difficult.  I couldn't get the characters straight in my mind and I was forever trying to figure out who was doing what with whom.  I found it bordering on frustrating.  As I read a bit further, as soon as chapter 2 even, people started to be distilled down by the author, and the characters rather came out of the fog.  It was an interesting (I'm assuming intended) technique.

Amanda


lizabet1196 wrote:
The first chapter for me was really hard to get through.  After that it was alot easier. 
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Chatterbox
Posts: 32
Registered: ‎11-28-2008
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Re: Chapters One through Five

Hmmm, where to start....

 

First of all, some context -- I live in Brooklyn, and although I'm a few years older than the characters in this novel, I fit solidly into their demographic -- media, establishing myself during the 1990s both professionally and personally. So I expected to relate more closely to at least one of the characters than I did -- in fact, I found many of them (one or two of them have had jobs in this novel that I have held in real life) to be a bit unconvincing. And to me, a character has to be convincing for me to immerse myself in the author's fictional landscape. Either that, or the landscape itself -- the context & background -- has to be so convincing that I want to follow that. In this case, the landscape is simply described. It doesn't seem to represent or signify anything larger. Anyone who has been in NY or Brooklyn, been to a party in DUMBO or Williamsburg has seen the streetscapes Rakoff describes. But there's nothing more. (In contrast to someone like Auster, who writes brilliantly about Brooklyn.)

 

Re the questions at the outset of this thread -- I had to apply my own theories about why Lil and Tuck were marrying, because it simply wasn't clear to me. Indeed, it isn't until the scene where he tells her he has been laid off that we get any real sense of the dynamic between the two of them. I was deeply irritated by the rapidly-shifting perspective among the many characters and didn't feel the writing was good enough to pull this off. There were isolated scenes that were amusing or convincing, such as when Lil slaps at Cousin Paula's hands -- it was both absolutely convincing and a great way to really capture the inter-generational tensions described earlier in the (to me, unnecessary) meal that the friends and their parents had shared where some of them had rejected the idea of marriage.

 

Broadly, I'm struggling with all these characters and the way they are presented. It's as if I have walked into a party where everyone assumes I know everyone else and their life stories, and I don't. There are narrative devices that can be used to make that point of entrance smoother -- and I don't want to wait until halfway through the book (or whenever) to finally understand why someone did or said something several chapters earlier. Beth, I think, mentions her love for the Peregrine family -- and I have no basis for understanding where that is coming from. It's completely out of the blue, doesn't seem to propel the plot forward -- is, in a word, jarring.

 

A detailed sex scene doesn't bother me, and this one is no more graphic in its own way than anything else I have read. (Convincing is another matter, but hey.) 

 

To me, it seems at this point as if the characters whom we have "met" -- Lil, Tuck, Beth -- are really experimenting and trying on roles, and -- despite their professed close friendship -- eyeing each other anxiously to see who is better in their role. Lil gets married, Beth, in having sex with Will almost in spite of herself (both the general fact of sex and the nature of the sex) is, I think, reacting both to Lil's marriage and to her own feelings about what a relationship should be. She has arrived in New York -- or at least Astoria -- and New York life is not what she thought it would be; Lil is married -- something she would not have expected to occur as rapidly; and her relationship with Dave (clearly still dominating her emotional life) is not what was expected. In a world where nothing is as 'expected', well, why not try something completely out of character? Similarly, Tuck has broken away completely from the person he was when Lil first met him -- the poetry scholar -- and become the New Economy journalist.

 

Indeed, the one part of the book that is convincing to me at this stage is the way in which the characters seem to be eyeing each other to see which of them is "ahead" in what they seem to view as a race to the finish line. Who is making the career breakthroughs? The personal relationship breakthroughs? In this way, I do find the characters true to life; in their 20s, there is a rush to establish some kind of adult status by many people -- only later do I see those same folks pause and say "but where was it that I was really trying to get to?" (aka, I suppose, the midlife crisis).

 

So, re the changes that take place between the wedding and the party seem to me to revolve around the different ways in which and paces at which the characters take those steps forward. (No need for me to rehash what those changes were.)

 

Re Lil's unexpected wedding -- we see that it is unexpected to Lil's friends. Something that is irritating to me as a reader was that I never got a sense of how unexpected it was to Lil. What was the backstory there? Even a few lines would have sufficed, the wedding seen through Lil's eyes (not just the dress or Cousin Paula). I didn't feel that the wedding scene gave me any insight into groups at all; rather the older generation seemed to be hardly drawn as characters in their own right, and beyond the core characters, the rest were just bit players or background scenery. The conflicts among the friends -- esp the Beth/Dave relationship and looming issues with Tal's success -- felt very predictable in nature.

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BooksRPam
Posts: 39
Registered: ‎12-05-2008
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Re: Chapters One through Five


sam608 wrote:

I'm enjoying the book so far, and I've only read the first two chapters, but I keep feeling it remines me of something....something I've read before or a movie.  Something, I can't put my finger on it but a group of friends, for years, with histories, etc.  Isn't there a movie that starts out its introductions with a wedding (and no, I'm not talking about The Godfather....)


The movie this book brings to mind is Saint Elmo's Fire.  The only movie that comes to mind involving friends at a wedding is The Deerhunter, and I don't think that's what you're referencing.  WIsh I could be more help!  :smileytongue:

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prizequeen69
Posts: 3
Registered: ‎12-07-2008
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Re: Chapters One through Five

I'd like to add another view:  I discovered as I read the book (I've finished it) that I LIKED the fact that I was learning what happened to each character in an oblique manner rather than going through the full story and every detail.  For me, it added to the pleasure of the narrative.  And it isn't inconsistant.  The author uses this technique throughout the book.
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prizequeen69
Posts: 3
Registered: ‎12-07-2008
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Re: Chapters One through Five


CJINCA wrote:
I agree esp about missing out on how Beth gets engaged to a man who states on the first date, that he doesn't "do" obligations.  Maybe this is something we will get to learn more about in subsequent chapters...but I was a bit disappointed that we didn't get to see that happen ourselves. 

In general, I find the style of the book a bit choppy -- we are given so much back-story and interpolation, the conversations don't really flow the way it does when old friends get together, at least so far.


I'm glad a few of you brought up this topic, because I feel the same
way. I find that the detail in this book is very inconsistent. The
author can spend pages and pages describing a very short period of time
and covering the most trivial things in excruciating detail, and then glosses
over major life events that inexplicably occur during chapter breaks. We learn about every alcoholic beverage, book, author, trend, movie, and other preference of each group member. We dwell on every minor thought that crosses each character's mind. We even learn about Sadie's mother insistence on slant-tipped tweezers over square-tipped ones. And yet the description of Beth's developing relationship with Will is so abbreviated that our jaws drop when we suddenly find that Beth is engaged.

 

What's up with that?  Do we need to know the most irrelevant minutiae of daily life of the group members and then not be apprised of how Beth and Will's awkward start bloomed into engagement?  After a while this writing inconsistency and emphasis on trivial detail has begun to irritate me. I'm a bit more than halfway through the book now, and finding it harder and harder to dive back in after putting the book down.

 

 

Sorry, I'm new at this:  my prior message was in response to the message above.

 
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Chatterbox
Posts: 32
Registered: ‎11-28-2008
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Re: Chapters One through Five

prizequeen, I agree with you that being oblique can work (and often works better). And it's certainly the author's consistent approach.

 

But I don't think it's being done skilfully here. If it were, I would be reacting with "ahhhh..." instead of "hunh?"

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lhecht
Posts: 2
Registered: ‎11-19-2008
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Re: Chapters One through Five

Lil's marriage appears to symbolize transitions for the group as well as herself.  It marks the dissolution of the group as the most important primary relationships among peers.   Spouses take priority over friends with respect to satisfying needs for intimacy, as well as loyalty, not to mention the decrease in the amount of free time one has to maintain relationships with friends after marriage, changes in interests and priorities, etc.  Lil's marriage made those transitions seem more possible in a concrete kind of way to other members of the group of friends.  It also symbolizes a transition to adulthood -- time to stop finding oneself and pick a path, so to speak.

 

As some other readers mentioned, I foudn chapter 1 difficult.  There were a lot of characters introduced but not yet developed, which made them hard to remember from one page to the next.  And since Lil's character was not yet developed either (and we have to wait a long time to understand her better), she seemed more of a prop.  I am well otu of this generation, so I wasn't sure after the first chapter that I would enjoy the book.  But I did, and was drawn into their lives, and began to care what happened to some of them.  I attribute this to good writing.

 

Unlike some of the other readers, I did not find Beth's behavior (her sexual encounter with Will) to be very surprising, maybe because I came of age in the 1970s.  By today's standards we are expected to avoid this kind of partnering (safety, health, morality), but it nevertheless happens.  And, Beth met this person through her network of friends, which gives a sense of safety (though obviously a false sense), and as others have already pointed out, Beth was feeling alone and discarded, which I think is often at the root of women's willingness to consent to unplanned sex with relative strangers.

Inspired Correspondent
EbonyAngel
Posts: 276
Registered: ‎12-22-2006
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Re: Chapters One through Five


miller1323 wrote:
As for moments I found most striking--I'm curious as to what others thought of the sex scene.  Altough it did establish Beth as pliable and foolish (atleast for me), did anyone else find it a bit much?

 

Yeah, I found it a bit much and Beth seemed too pliable.  I guess there's one in every bunch.
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EbonyAngel
Posts: 276
Registered: ‎12-22-2006
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Re: Chapters One through Five


lizabet1196 wrote:
The first chapter for me was really hard to get through.  After that it was alot easier. There seemed to be some jealousy at Lil getting married.  Maybe some uncertainity to some about how this would affect their relationships with her.

 

I don't think it was jealousy so much as them realizing how things were going to change.  Sorta like, ok, now we're grown up.  
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EbonyAngel
Posts: 276
Registered: ‎12-22-2006
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Re: Chapters One through Five


bookladyET wrote:
The first chapter was tough.  I didn't think it was a great first impression. I am going to hang on and finish, I wasn't sure I wanted to. The sex scene was a bit much, I thought.  I was feeling bad about my first impressions, but after reading many of other readers replies, I was releived. I am curious about the ending and do look forward to continue on....

 

I'm going through the post and posting my comments as I go.  I too felt the same way about the first chapter.  I'm glad I kept reading.
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mv5ocean
Posts: 114
Registered: ‎12-03-2008
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Re: Chapters One through Five

I agree Lil getting married kind of threw them all for a loop.....if she who would NEVER marry is doing it what is going to happen to them they are thinking. And also I believe there is certainly a level of jealousy that someone who wouldn't marry is actually winning the lottery before they do.

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mv5ocean
Posts: 114
Registered: ‎12-03-2008
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Re: Chapters One through Five

I'm in complete agreement on your reasoning behind Beth's move to have sex with Will so quickly.  Serious self esteem issues which no doubt come from her loss of Dave, seeing him again, and most definitely trying to prove her self worth in some crazy way. What I do note is that if I found myself in that position, not knowing him any better than that, and the way it came about, I don't think I would have laughed it off when I came out of the bathroom!  I probably would have run for dear life............
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Vermontcozy
Posts: 5,279
Registered: ‎10-20-2008
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Re: Chapters One through Five

Three weddings and a Funeral,no maybe not...
Kindness,I've discovered,is everything in life...Issac Bashevis Singer
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pandy914
Posts: 6
Registered: ‎12-08-2008
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Re: Chapters One through Five

I, too, found the first chapter to be difficult, sluggish reading, but afterward I've found myself most sympathetic to Beth, perhaps because I identify with her character the most. 

 

As a twenty-something, I remember all too well leaving behind the safe, comfortable net of academia, and how terrifying it was to have a full-time job and full-time financial responsibilities.  To navigate these transitions while watching your friends get married and have children adds even more uncertainty, which wreaks havoc on your self-esteem.  Or, at least, it did on mine.  You look back on the picture you had of your mid- to late-twenties when you were an adolescent, and panic when you remember all the things you were sure you'd accomplish by then, and haven't yet.  And this lack of clarity when thinking causes you to rush into things you'd normally avoid.

 

Beth feels the least settled out of all of her friends, because she's the newest entrant into this "adult" world.  To her eye, her friends seem so secure and successful, while she's made glaring mistakes with her studies, her job, her living situation, and her romantic relationships.  To me, Will must seem like a way to catch up, to avoid being left behind.  As an attractive, worldly, successful man, not to mention a father, he seems like someone who can provide her with a sense of stability, to alleviate her insecurities when comparing herself to her friends.  In my opinion, this is evidenced most when she breaks down after announcing her engagement;  she's so sure of her friends' impending disapproval, even pity, that she reacts before they even have a chance to do so.

"Do not pity the dead...Pity the living, and, above all, those who live without love."
--J. K. Rowling, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows"
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CKindianCB
Posts: 25
Registered: ‎12-06-2008
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Re: Chapters One through Five

I agree with many of you, it is hard to grow close to any of the characters in this book.  Lil and Beth especially seem short of common sense for being intelligent women with college educations. 

The way the book moves around makes it very difficult to get a real feel for the continuity of the stories.

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eadieburke
Posts: 1,925
Registered: ‎01-27-2007
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Re: Chapters One through Five

This book kind of reminds me of the book by Maeve Binchy "Circle of Friends" which eventually became of movie. I don't know if that's the same movie you are thinking about but that was my first impression. Maeve Binchy is one of my favorite authors from Ireland. If you haven't read her, you should give her a try. She also wrote "Tara Road".

 

I really liked this book alot. I especially liked the writer's style. She is a very free flowing writer. After I finished this book and picked up another, I really started wishing that I was still reading "A Fortunate Age". I enjoyed the characters. I thought they were semi-dysfunctional but then I think that's what made them so believable and real. What is normal anyway?

 

 

Eadie - A day out-of-doors, someone I loved to talk with, a good book and some simple food and music -- that would be rest. - Eleanor Roosevelt
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Re76
Posts: 26
Registered: ‎11-18-2008
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Re: Chapters One through Five

Sam608,

 

Could the movie you are thinking of be "The Big Chill"? It's about a group of friends that get together...however it's for a funeral....of a friend. But there are some common threads about friendships and history.

Just a thought

Renee

 

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Sassy398
Posts: 56
Registered: ‎11-03-2008
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Re: Chapters One through Five

In reality...reading the first chapter was a rough go...continuing on there seemed to be

alot of rapid storyline whirlwind going on. At times, it was kind of difficult to understand

but then it smoothed out. I like challenges, so it gives me the desire to read on.

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kiakar
Posts: 3,435
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Chapters One through Five

HI eadieburke  You made me smile when you mentioned Maeve Binchy. I love all of her books. I have read most of them, even her short stories. The circle of friends she wrote, her characters I feel weren't as flawed as in A Fortunate Age as for as I can remember. Its been awhile since I have read that one. And too, it was in a completely differate time too. Maeve was on Barnes and Noble University when that is what these clubs were called a few years back.  She is so jolly and friendly. I wonder if she will write anymore, I think she is getting up there in age.  Happy Reading.  Linda

 

 

 

 

 


eadieburke wrote:

This book kind of reminds me of the book by Maeve Binchy "Circle of Friends" which eventually became of movie. I don't know if that's the same movie you are thinking about but that was my first impression. Maeve Binchy is one of my favorite authors from Ireland. If you haven't read her, you should give her a try. She also wrote "Tara Road".

 

I really liked this book alot. I especially liked the writer's style. She is a very free flowing writer. After I finished this book and picked up another, I really started wishing that I was still reading "A Fortunate Age". I enjoyed the characters. I thought they were semi-dysfunctional but then I think that's what made them so believable and real. What is normal anyway?