Maggie Shipstead graduated from Harvard in 2005 and earned an M.F.A at the Iowa Writers' Workshop. Currently, she is a Stegner Fellow at Stanford University. Seating Arrangements is her first novel. facebook.com/maggieshipsteadauthor
'Joyously good' DAILY MAIL 'A ferociously clever comedy of manners' GUARDIAN 'Distinctive and dazzling ... The world has found a remarkable, humane new voice to explain us to ourselves' Allison Pearson 'A wise, sophisticated and funny novel about family, fidelity, class and crisis' MARIE CLAIRE Books of 2012 - TELEGRAPH Books of 2012 - SUNDAY EXPRESS
Vibrant prose and moments of keen insight lighten an otherwise lackluster debut in this comedy of manners set during the days preceding a wedding. Daphne Van Meter is getting married at her family's New England summerhouse, her advanced pregnancy a blight on the festivities for the older WASP set. Her father, Winn, feeling increasingly irrelevant at work and in the eyes of his family, toys with the idea of adultery, though his real passion is gaining admittance to Waskeke island's exclusive golf club. Daphne's younger sister Livia, unable to recover from her recent abortion and breakup, makes halfhearted attempts to find a rebound interest as the weekend progresses. Also on the scene is Biddy, Winn's solid if unspectacular wife (she falls asleep during sex and only wants Winn to be discreet if he cheats). The characters are either bland or unsympathetic, and with little plot, the book lacks energy. Readers looking for a thoughtful beach read may find moments of distraction in Shipstead's linguistic dexterity, but the glacial pace and dull characters will likely put them to sleep. Agent: Rebecca Gradinger, Fletcher & Company. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
This debut answers the question of whether the rich are different from you and me. The answer is yes, because we wouldn't be caught dead in slacks with whales embroidered on them. Like so many recent movie comedies, the novel takes us into the home-and then the summer home-of a wealthy New England family in the days leading up to a daughter's wedding. We have misbehaving bridesmaids and the bumbling father of the bride, who, in this case, is lusting after one of the bridesmaids. Oh, and the bride is seven months pregnant. But never mind that, her father is beside himself because he can't get a membership in the local country club. The characters are an accumulation of over-the-top WASP-like traits: Harvard educations, social clubs, old money, bigotry, family secrets, and funny nicknames like Winn and Biddy. Shipstead's yeoman prose describes the family's mishaps in cinemagraphic detail. VERDICT A hilarious, if somewhat tasteless, escapist read.-Reba Leiding, James Madison Univ. Libs., Harrisonburg, VA (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.