Wednesday, July 18, 2012

"Gossip," by Beth Gutcheon

On 2/8/10, I wrote about “middlebrow literature,” and gave as examples of middlebrow writers Anne Rivers Siddons, Anita Shreve, Elizabeth Berg, Nancy Thayer, and Joanna Trollope. I would add Beth Gutcheon, several of whose novels I have read in the past, and whose new novel, “Gossip” (HarperCollins, 2012), I just listened to on CD (Books on Tape/Random House, 2012). She, like the other authors I just mentioned, writes solidly and well, and although her novels are not "great literature," they “give good value,” as the English say. They give readers an entertaining read, and the escape that they (we) are often looking for; at the same time, they move us, inspire us, and make us feel connected to humankind. “Gossip,” although in some ways light, deals with some serious issues as well: relationships over the years and how they can go right or wrong, the human tendency to want to gossip about others, loneliness, fractured families, friendship, and more. These issues are presented in the entertaining context of New York, posh apartments and country homes, private schools, society, money, fashion, and the entertainment world. So we readers get the best of both worlds: enjoyment and emotional connection. The three main characters met at an elite private school for girls, and the novel follows their lives, and the lives of their spouses, ex-spouses, lovers, and children over perhaps 40 years. One of the three, Luvia, narrates most of the story, and acts as the calm center and confidant for the others as they live out their more tempestuous lives. Again, this is not great literature, but it is not trashy or badly written either, as is so much on the market today. It does the job it sets out to do well, and provides satisfaction. And what’s wrong with that? I for one am grateful for these middlebrow authors and their novels; they have provided me with many hours of enjoyment over the years.

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