Tuesday, April 21, 2009

book review: laura rider's masterpiece by jane hamilton

From this week's Entertainment Weekly Must List: "Why this novel? Well, who wouldn't want a peek inside the mind of an aspiring romance writer who cuts off sex with her hubby, then engineers an affair for him so she can study it?"

Me: Did I just read the same book?

Laura Rider's Masterpiece is a satirical love/lust triangle of sorts mixed with a character study in novel form. The triangle involves Laura Rider, an aspiring novelist and successful garden business owner; her husband, Charlie, whom everyone in their small Wisconsin town thinks is gay, but whose main gift in life is his sexual prowess; and Jenna Faroli, a local turned syndicated public radio show host who has moved to town because it is equidistant between the radio station and her judge husband's courthouse. Laura idolizes Jenna, and is eager to start a friendship.

I love Jane Hamilton's novels, but one of my favorite things about her novels is that it's always easy to relate to the characters, regardless of their background. Laura Rider's Masterpiece started off well. I was instantly intrigued with Laura's wit and honesty as a narrator. Her description of small-town life was comedic and spot-on. As the narrative shifted to Jenna as the narrator, I again found myself mesmerized by her experiences and perspective.

As the novel wore on (and it's hard to say it wore on at all, given it's only 214 pages), it became more satirical, which made the characters less accessible. I was torn between feeling sorry for them and not caring about how things turned out. For such a great start, I did not enjoy the second half of the book. The setup was more enjoyable than the fulfillment. I really wanted to like this novel, and I loved the first half of it, but ultimately, it was underwhelming.

Rating: 3 stars (out of 5)

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