Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is one of those books that really isn't for everyone. I found the reading experience to be VERY dense. I'm not sure that's the best description but it's the word that kept coming up for me. It's got a lot of depth and the writing is quite good (some of the writing is stunning) but it's ultimately a social satire about a very specific segment of the American population - the East Coast WASP that has lots of wealth, goes to Ivy League schools, owns beach houses, etc.
I felt the world created by Shipstead certainly felt real to me ... although not the world I'm from by any stretch of the imagination, it seemed to resonate with me in terms of my own encounters with such people. Were the characters likeable? Well, no. Not even a little bit. Flawed certainly and often self-absorbed and annoying. Yet, I still enjoyed reading about them.
I struggled with rating this one ... it's probably more of a 3 and a half for me but I'm rounding up since I really did enjoy this one overall. I think the book deserves a higher rating for the moments of genius that I found within (some of the writing blew me away yet some of it most definitely did not). There is an intensity to the novel that gave it the sense of density that I referred to earlier. I'm not sure that I'd recommend this to most readers ... but, if you are interested in reading satire about wealth or are interested in getting a taste of Maggie Shipstead's writing, I would recommend this one. I am looking forward to trying her new novel to see if that one resonates even more than this one!