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Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead

Seating Arrangements (original 2012; edition 2012)

by Maggie Shipstead

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5103519,905 (3.23)23
Title:Seating Arrangements
Authors:Maggie Shipstead
Info:Knopf (2012), Hardcover, 320 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:read in 2012, social satire, WASPs, New England, books that have successful endings but that don't do such a great job getting you to those endings, chick lit

Work details

Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead (2012)

  1. 00
    Maine: A Novel by J. Courtney Sullivan (baystateRA)
    baystateRA: Boozy family dysfunction in the New England WASP summer home set.

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English (34)  Dutch (1)  All languages (35)
Showing 1-5 of 34 (next | show all)
This book about a family during a long weekend in preparation for a daughter's wedding was highly disappointing. It started well enough, but it was just too weird in the middle (exploding whales and everybody wanted to have sex with everybody else!) and a very abrupt ending.... It seems the author had reached her preassigned word limit and just quit! ( )
  yukon92 | Apr 4, 2015 |
Shipstead is an immensely talented writer, with laser-accurate descriptions and characters of remarkable depth. But this book was too subtle for my taste: the plot moved too slowly and the sparse dramatic events fizzled to nothing. I'm broadcasting my ignorance here, but I was left without much understanding of how the characters were transformed by the few days we spent with them.

Much of my dissatisfaction may have been the simple result of mismatched expectations; the blurb mentions a wedding, champagne, lust and an escaped lobster. It's true, all these things are present, but I was expecting a lighter, more comical story, not the kind of novel which gets itself on the literature syllabus at serious universities.

I take my hat off to Shipstead's prowess as a writer, but for entertainment, I prefer a faster-moving yarn. ( )
  paulinewiles | Jan 26, 2015 |
Here's a quick diagnostic to assess whether you'd enjoy this book:

If someone told you they were wearing seersucker ironically, would you walk away or would you ask how it was working for them?

Seating Arrangements is populated with characters in seersucker, whale belts and pastel pop-collared polos, and very few of them wear--or do--anything with irony. Those that try largely fail. So we are surrounded by Biddy and Mopsy and Oatsie (I kid you not) and more last-names-as-first names than the freshman class of Hah-vahd, all organized around a wedding and the middle-age flailings of Winn Van Meter. It's almost as easy to hate these people as it is to dismiss them.

And yet I didn't hate them or dismiss them. You might (see question above), but I was entertained on nearly every page, and even moved. Maggie Shipstead's writing is superb; I crossed from admiration into envy several times. She manages to weave the back story into the grim present with finesse, and we come to see that for all their stuffy posturing, their suffering (and loyalty) is very real. It's a neat trick, and served up with plenty of laughs. ( )
  SonjaYoerg | Oct 1, 2014 |
I wanted to like this book. So many reviews stated laugh out loud funny...I wish I could have found a single part that was funny. All I could find was rich people complaining about their lives and playing the victim. ( )
  bibliophile_pgh | Sep 27, 2014 |
What a good read this was – rich in detail and characterisation, conveying a strong sense of physical location, as well as the class-conscious demographic among which it is set. The story covers just a couple of days in the lives of the Van Meter family, but with many flashbacks and a perceptive eye for the subtleties of social interaction, it paints a fascinating picture of a troubled family, and in particular its ageing patriarch, Win. He is in many ways a quite appalling character and yet his cringemaking attitudes and actions are explained by his past, and you can’t hate him.

It is such a wise book – its wisdom all the better for being understated, whether it is shining a light on the obsession with exclusive clubs and social climbing in a supposedly class-free nation, or just the business of life in general: (“....Dominique didn’t know if she was strong or not. All she knew was that her best decisions had been the ones that brought her freedom, but talking about freedom with Biddy would be like explaining Africa to a giraffe that had been born in the Bronx Zoo.”). Definitely an author to watch. ( )
  jayne_charles | Sep 15, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 34 (next | show all)
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The river bears no empty bottles, sandwich papers,
Silk handkerchiefs, cardboard boxes, cigarette ends
Or another testimony of summer nights.  The nymphs are departed.
And their friends, the loitering heirs of City directors;
Departed, have left no addresses.
T.S. ELIOT, "The Waste Land"
To my parents, Patrick and Susan,
pillars of everything
First words
By Sunday the wedding would be over, and for that Winn Van Meter was grateful.
Makeup pencils and brushes were everywhere, abandoned helter-skelter as though by the fleeing beauticians of Pompeii.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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"Winn Van Meter is heading for his family's retreat on the pristine New England island of Waskeke. Normally a haven of calm, for the next three days this sanctuary will be overrun by tipsy revelers as Winn prepares for the marriage of his daughter Daphne to the affable young scion Greyson Duff. Winn's wife, Biddy, has planned the wedding with military precision, but arrangements are sideswept by a storm of salacious misbehavior and intractable lust: Daphne's sister, Livia, who has recently had her heart broken by Teddy Fenn, the son of her father's oldest rival, is an eager target for the seductive wiles of Greyson's best man; Winn, instead of reveling in his patriarchal duties, is tormented by his long-standing crush on Daphne's beguiling bridesmaid Agatha; and the bride and groom find themselves presiding over a spectacle of misplaced desire, marital infidelity, and monumental loss of faith in the rituals of American life"--Dust jacket.… (more)

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