Friday, May 3, 2013
Book Review and Giveaway: Table for Seven
**Giveaway is now closed**
Table for Seven, prolific author Whitney Gaskell’s latest offering, is the second book I’ve read recently that was structured around an ongoing event hosted by a revolving group of friends. The first, The Forced Redundancy Film Club (by Brian Finnegan), was about a group of fired co-workers meeting regularly for a movie night; Gaskell’s novel is about a friends’ dinner club. I hope this structure is not the start of a new trend. In both books, the most interesting plot points happened away from the events, and the meetings themselves seemed forced and anticlimactic.
The non-dinner party scenes in Gaskell’s novel, however, were quite engaging. The book is about two unhappily married couples – Will and Fran, and Mark and Jaime – and their unattached friends Coop, Audrey and Leland. Audrey was widowed several years ago, and objects to her best friend Fran’s attempts at setting her up. So when she meets Coop on New Year’s Eve, Fran lies to her that Coop is gay. Of course, Fran has her own reasons for lying – she’s developed an almost-obsessive crush on Coop, who is also Will’s best friend. Meanwhile, perfectionist Jaime suspects her husband Mark is having an affair – but maybe he’s just too involved with his daughter Emily’s budding tennis career.
Gaskell writes from the third person limited omniscient point of view, while limiting POV to one person during each scene. This perspective allows readers to see characters' differing interpretations for the same interaction. For instance, while Fran thinks Coop is interested and responsive to a come-on, the next scene shows him shaken and dismayed. Gaskell is also quite adept at using a character’s actions, rather than narrative, to describe him or her. When we first meet Jaime, for instance, she is putting away groceries in such a specific way that we do not need the author to tell us she’s a perfectionist who is close to being anal.
The book is domestic drama bordering on soap opera, but it’s engrossing and never bleeds into melodrama. I found the stories of the two married couples to be realistic and compelling, although frankly Mark never appears as anything more than a self-absorbed jerk. The single characters, perhaps because their stories seemed less compelling, don’t come across quite so empathetically. While I knew I was supposed to be rooting for Audrey and Coop to get together, I found her self-centered and judgmental and him undependable and shallow. Leland, a widower, is a “magical elder” character and never breaks out of that role.
Nevertheless, the story moves along briskly, the characters seem real and the ending satisfying. And the description of the food is mouth-watering.
Thanks to Bantam Dell (Random House) for the book in exchange for an honest review. They have SEVEN copies to give away to some lucky US readers!
How to win:
Please tell us about the last time you hosted people for a meal. (Could be anything from who you had over to what you cooked to something interesting or exciting that may have happened.)
One entry per person.
Please include your e-mail address or another way to reach you if you win. Entries without contact information will NOT be counted.
US only. Giveaway ends May 7th at midnight EST.