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Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead
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Seating Arrangements (original 2012; edition 2012)

by Maggie Shipstead

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5193719,506 (3.23)23
Member:loringp
Title:Seating Arrangements
Authors:Maggie Shipstead
Info:Knopf (2012), Hardcover, 320 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:***1/2
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

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Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead (2012)

Recently added bymindyd, private library, mmoj, jessicaofthebees, valerietheblonde, bookwormamp
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    Maine: A Novel by J. Courtney Sullivan (baystateRA)
    baystateRA: Boozy family dysfunction in the New England WASP summer home set.
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Showing 1-5 of 36 (next | show all)
Maggie Shipstead is an accomplished, creative, and insightful author; and you know it from the way she writes. The words are woven in such a way that indicates the author is fully aware of her skill. It got in the way of enjoying the story initially, but soon I fell into the dysfunctional yet ethereal groove she created. Beautifully explored characters and a teaspoon of mysticism set in a the drama of a wedding between two rich white families make an odd threesome. Shipstead tacitly acknowledges the challenge in her writing and tackles it. She may have even intentionally created it herself. It took 89 pages to find one that I wished to fold over and return to. A good read, to be sure, but no need to go far out of your way to get your hands on a copy. ( )
  jessicaofthebees | Aug 15, 2015 |
Maggie Shipstead is an accomplished, creative, and insightful author; and you know it from the way she writes. The words are woven in such a way that indicates the author is fully aware of her skill. It got in the way of enjoying the story initially, but soon I fell into the dysfunctional yet ethereal groove she created. Beautifully explored characters and a teaspoon of mysticism set in a the drama of a wedding between two rich white families make an odd threesome. Shipstead tacitly acknowledges the challenge in her writing and tackles it. She may have even intentionally created it herself. It took 89 pages to find one that I wished to fold over and return to. A good read, to be sure, but no need to go far out of your way to get your hands on a copy. ( )
  valerietheblonde | Aug 5, 2015 |
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 |
Showing 1-5 of 36 (next | show all)
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Epigraph
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"
Dedication
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.
Quotations
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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