The backstory: After loving Jami Attenberg's last novel, The Middlesteins, I was excited to read her new one.
The basics: Set in Jazz Age New York City's Bowery neighborhood and based upon a real person, Saint Mazie is the story of Mazie Phillips, a young woman who loves to party. When the Depression hits, Mazie can't help but help.
My thoughts: The premise of this novel checks so many of my boxes, yet as I listened, Mazie never quite came alive for me. I think it's a combination of Attenberg's structure and Gilbert's narration style. The novel is structured as a documentary film, so there are numerous excerpts from Mazie's diaries, as well as interviews with descendants of those she knew. Perhaps especially on audio, this structure made the narrative feel fractured. I really wanted to love this book, but over all, I feel mostly 'meh' about it. It's such a great concept, and Attenberg is a great writer. This book has some great passages, but it never came together for me. Perhaps I should have opted to read this one instead of listen to it.
The verdict: Saint Mazie offers a fascinating glimpse into its time period. I wish I would have connected more with Mazie as a character, as the entire novel depends on doing so. Attenberg uses Mazie's story to explore themes of good and bad, particularly in a historical context, but it failed to ring true for me. Gilbert's narration of Mazie made her come across as melodramatic, and that likely helped hinder my connection to Mazie.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Length: 9 hours 38 minutes (336 pages)
Publication date: June 2, 2015
Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy Saint Mazie from Amazon (Kindle edition.)
Want more? Visit Jami Attenberg's website and follow her on Twitter.
As an affiliate, I receive a small commission when you make a purchase through any of the above links. Thank you for helping to support my book habits that bring more content to this blog!