Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Three Martini Lunch

Title:  Three Martini Lunch
Author:  Suzanne Rindell
Publication Information:  G. P. Putnam's Sons. 2016. 512 pages.
ISBN:  0399165487 / 978-0399165481

Book Source:  I received this book through the Penguin First to Read program free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "Greenwich Village in '58 was a madman's paradise."

Favorite Quote:  "In those days, I straddled more than a handful of worlds, which is also to say I belonged wholly to none."

The urban dictionary defines a three martini lunch as a leisurely (three martinis = three hours) lunch taken by professionals and executives for business purposes. Deals are brokered, and careers are made or derailed through the course of a three martini lunch.

Though no longer common in the business world, the term and the concept remains part of our urban language. This book dives into deal making and career forming in the book publishing industry in the 1950s and 1960s in New York City. The book embodies the industry and also the prejudices and divides of the day by telling the story through three main characters.

Cliff is, so to speak, to the manor born. His father is an executive at one of the publishing house. Cliff is a Columbia drop-out but fancies himself quite the author. He has an estranged relationship with his father but still hopes to use that connection to further his writing career. He has a sense of entitlement about him. Can connections and wealth overcome a lack of talent?

Eden Katz, a. k. a. Eden Collins, comes to New York from Indiana - a small town girl with big city aspirations. She starts off as a secretary with a goal of being an editor. She is young and idealistic. Her journey from Katz to Collins and back again symbolizes her growth but also highlights prejudices that existed at the time. Her path is neither easy nor straight. Can sheer determination and hard work overcome the prejudices that stand in her way?

Miles is a Columbia University graduate and a truly talented writer. He is also African American born in Harlem. The color of his skin closes many doors and places many obstacles in his way. His journey to his father's past becomes his path to the future. Can his talent shine through people's judgements about the color of his skin and his personal life?

The story of these three young people intersects over the years and draws together a picture of the time and the industry. The sections of the book alternate between the three and all tell the story in first person, giving the reader three completely different perspectives. Through their eyes, we see the publishing industry, the society of Greenwich Village, Beatnik culture, racial and religious prejudice, and the societal view of homosexuality at the time. The book paints 1950s and 1960s New York with a broad brush, covering a lot of ground.

This book builds at a very slow burn. At over 500 pages, this story takes a while to develop. It is particularly slow to start, with the first half of the book seemingly more focused on painting a picture of the scene rather than moving the story forward. The characters and events start to build much more quickly well into the second half of the book, yet the book always seems more about the time period. A beautiful period piece that makes a good book. An engaging story that, more succinctly told, would make a great book.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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