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The View from Penthouse B by Elinor Lipman
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The View from Penthouse B (2013)

by Elinor Lipman

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The View from Penthouse B by Elinor Lipman is at heart about “two dames–on the verge of something” to quote Gwen-Laura, our witty and slightly tart-tonged narrator. She is the middle sister, living with the eldest, Margot, and advised by the youngest, Betsy. Gwen’s husband Edwin died in his sleep two years earlier, not so long after Margot divorced her infamously and feloniously philandering husband Charles and promptly losing her divorce settlement to Bernie Madoff.

Nonetheless she has the sumptuous Penthouse B in the Batavia, luxury Manhattan living, if only she could afford it. Sensible Betsy suggests Gwen rent her home and move in with Margot, sharing expenses. It makes sense and they rub along well together, though they must economize more than they like. But then Margot adds a third roommate, Anthony who is much younger, gay, and someone who excels at managing everything. He cooks marvelous cupcakes, teaches them how to use the internet, and pushes Gwen to try online-dating.

Meanwhile, Margot’s miscreant husband has been released from prison and is living in the same building, in a small studio. He is trying very hard to get back in Margot’s good graces and their economies are such that his contributions of ham and flounder are welcome, even if he is welcomed much less enthusiastically.

I enjoyed The View from Penthouse B very much. I can see it as a movie with Ellen Barkin as older, charming Margot; Laura Dern as the quiet volcano, Gwen; and Tia Leoni as the somewhat bossy know-it-all Betsy. Or some other suitable group of talented actresses with spunk, wit, and humor. It is a bit of a rom-com, even though it’s more com than rom, and the rom is heavily concentrated toward the end as the women transition from being nowhere near the verge of something to where they end up, “two dames–on the verge of something.”

The story is plausible, set firmly in the present and characters are well-developed. This has the makings of an excellent story but it is held back, I think, because the author wants to keep it on the light side. I think that is a mistake. There is real pain but when we get too close, the writer steps back and glides past, afraid to wallow. I think a book can still be humorous and uplifting without avoiding the deep pain and anger that is natural. I wish Lipman had let her characters go deeper. The book would have still been a full of love and humor, but would have had a more profound humanity.
★★★
http://tonstantweaderreviews.wordpress.com/2017/01/03/the-view-from-penthouse-b-... ( )
  Tonstant.Weader | Jan 3, 2017 |
I loved this book! It is quirky, smart, urban, and real. The characters are hilariously flawed, endearingly clueless and irredeemably tender in their clumsy devotion to each other. ( )
1 vote TFHetrick | Jan 25, 2015 |
Lipman excels at fire cracker-quick banter. Loved it! ( )
  jules72653 | Jun 8, 2014 |
Just plain FUN! The audio was terrific! Mia Barron made all of the characters appealing but you just can't help loving Gwen. I thought I had read Lipman's books but this is only my second so I'm looking forward to the others as I catch up! ( )
  nyiper | Mar 9, 2014 |
This book will probably be dated very quickly because of all the references -- Craigslist, Facebook, match.com, Bernie Madoff. But it was so charming! Gwen finds herself widowed when her dear husband dies unexpectedly. She moves in with her older sister, Margot, who used the windfall from her divorce settlement to purchase a penthouse apartment before investing the rest with BM. Because the sisters are a little hard up for cash, they take in a twenty-something laid off investment banker named Anthony. Anthony and Margot encourage Gwen to start dating again, but poor Gwen would rather stay home and think about launching Chaste Dates, a matchmaking service for adults looking for friendship only.

It is a perfect comfort read -- funny and sweet without being saccharine -- with a very lovely and perfect ending. ( )
  amy_marie26 | Jan 21, 2014 |
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Who better to dedicate this particular book to than my wonderful sister, Deborah Slobodnik
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Since Edwin died, I have lived with my sister Margot in the Batavia, an Art Deco apartment building on beautiful West Tenth Street in Greenwich Village.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0547576218, Hardcover)

Two sisters recover from widowhood, divorce, and Bernie Madoff as unexpected roommates in a Manhattan apartment

Unexpectedly widowed Gwen-Laura Schmidt is still mourning her husband, Edwin, when her older sister Margot invites her to join forces as roommates in Margot’s luxurious Village apartment. For Margot, divorced amid scandal (hint: her husband was a fertility doctor) and then made Ponzi-poor, it’s a chance to shake Gwen out of her grief and help make ends meet. To further this effort she enlists a third boarder, the handsome, cupcake-baking Anthony.

As the three swap money-making schemes and timid Gwen ventures back out into the dating world, the arrival of Margot’s paroled ex in the efficiency apartment downstairs creates not just complications but the chance for all sorts of unexpected forgiveness. A sister story about love, loneliness, and new life in middle age, this is a cracklingly witty, deeply sweet novel from one of our finest comic writers.


“Her worldview? Her enthusiasm, her effortless wit? Just a few of the reasons we love Elinor Lipman.”–Boston Globe

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:12 -0400)

Two newly-single sisters, one a divorce, the other a widow, become roommates with a handsome, gay cupcake-baker as they try to return to the dating world of lower Manhattan.

» see all 3 descriptions

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