Tuesday, December 4, 2018

The Little Clan

Title:  The Little Clan
Author:  Iris Martin Cohen
Publication Information:  Park Row. 2018. 320 pages.
ISBN:  0778312828 / 978-0778312826

Book Source:  I received this book as a publisher's galley through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "Ava waited, watching the stopped clock."

Favorite Quote:  "I always thought it might be nice to be a type. If  people have a way to place you, it might be nice to be a type. If people have a way to place you, I think you draw less ire, less attention, less bullying. Or at least you'd know why it happened. I feel like I'm always a mystery."

Ava and Stephanie are both in their twenties. Ava is a librarian; Stephanie has tried different careers. Ava lives a quiet life in the middle of Manhattan as if in a previous century; Stephanie is returning from an unexpected year abroad. Ava loves her classic books; Stephanie is about the "in" thing. They are friends, but are they really?

The plot of the book is about the Lazarus Club, the obscure but at one time stately club where Ava works and lives. Stephanie comes in like a whirlwind with grand ideas to create a literary salon. Ava loves the idea, but their ideas of "literary" and "salon" differ greatly. Both are carried forward on the force of their ideas into a somewhat mad escapade in the art and literary world of New York City. The descriptions of an old building being restored to its glory and the commentary on the literary world are perhaps my favorite aspects of the book.

I love books (obviously!), and I love books about readers and books. The idea of recreating a literary salon reminiscent of an older time was intriguing. Unfortunately, the love of books and all things literary only goes so far in this story as a supposed literary salon devolves into more of a disco party.

The characters - Ava and Stephanie - and their relationship is really what this book is about. Interestingly, neither one is particularly likable. I did not expect that. I expected to like one and perhaps dislike one, creating a hero and a villain perhaps. However, the book is surprisingly balanced between the two.

Ava is a bit of a pretentious snob and a doormat at the same time. She lives in the nineteenth century and refuses to acknowledge that anything more modern her precious than literary classics has value. Quill pens, gowns, and candlelight only in modern day Manhattan; really? Stephanie is an opportunistic player. Both of them are also just mean girls - to each other and to others around them.

Simmering under this on again off again college friendship are hints of more. With the introduction of side characters is the possibility of a budding romance, or not. Without a spoiler, let's just say that the ending has certain decisions and actions that seem completely out of character. For the most part, the characters are too self-involved for relationships to even play a major role.

The book description touts this book as "a love letter to classic literature and an illuminating look at new found adulthood." Unfortunately, the literary references are not the memorable aspect of this book. They serves more to highlight Ava's pretentiousness than to pay homage to the literature. As far as "new found adulthood", neither Ava nor Stephanie seem to progress on the journey to adulthood in the course of this book. The book description also sets this up as a coming of age story. However, the story really does not go anywhere in terms of character growth which is unfortunate in a character driven book.

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

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