Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Morningside Heights by Cheryl Mendelson

This is a Victorian novel, complete with a Vicar, and an Elderly Benefactress. Also a Clueless Mother, and Long-Suffering Father. Neighbors interfere. Gossip abounds. Funds run short. The wise narrator explains it all. I loved it! Fans of Jane Austen and Anthony Trollope will have fun with this. And I especially love it that no one mentions Jane Austen anywhere on the book jacket.

Of course it isn't really Victorian. It was published in 2003. Morningside Heights stands in for Barchester. It’s a neighborhood undergoing gentrification in New York City, where the old time residents are under siege from Wall Street tycoons. The self-satisfied artsy types who inhabit the old buildings are finding themselves priced out as their buildings go co-op. We follow the fortunes of the Braithwaite family as they navigate these changes, along with the adventures of their friends and extended family. Mendelson is wonderful at very subtle satire. No one escapes her just-ever-so-slightly-poisoned pen, but everyone is treated with love and respect as well.

I read that this is the first volume of a trilogy – hooray! Mendelson is also the author of Home Comforts, a book I remember seeing on the table at Borders, but which I studiously ignored, believing it to be some sort of Martha Stewart-esque guide to “homekeeping.” Who wants to read about ironing? But Mendelson is a great writer, and some people say that there’s more to Home Comforts than just housework, so I might give it whirl.

Here's an interesting review.
(Book 3, 2007)

6 comments:

zia said...

It's so interesting how differently we all see the same novel; I read this awhile ago, and never even thought of the Victorian novel -- though, of course, you are 100 percent right one. Click my name for my review. :-)

Regarding the domestic book, skip it. It's Martha on steroids, and I found her assertions about how easy it is to keep house to be both sanctimonious and unrealistic for anyone who doesn't get a little thrill from scrubbing grout joints with a toothbrush.

Melissa said...

Read Home Comforts! It's more than just housekeeping.

Mendelsohn doesn't say housekeeping is easy, just that it can become easier if you understand why and how to do things.

It gives some history and has tons of info, if you're into keeping a comfortable home for yourself or others.

She is way more about functional housekeeping for the sake of having a comfortable haven, than Martha Stewart's style of cutsey fronts.

Anyway, give it a try! You might like it. :)

Nonanon said...

I've gotta say, my favorite part about "Home Comforts" is how I get amused reading it and then miss my chance to do actual housework/cleaning. It's been a real lifesaver that way.

zia said...

I seem to be the sole dissenting voice here. Sigh. Chalk it up to the fact that I HATE housekeeping; my idea of a linen closet is not something with everything neatly folded and scented with lavender. Instead, it consists of an old kitchen cabinet in the basement where I stuff all the sheet unceremoniously after they come out of the dryer and then stick them back in the dryer with a wet washcloth when company comes over.

Becky said...

I flipped through a copy of Home Comforts at a friend's house the other day, and I have to say, it looked just like what it purports to be: a housewife's guidebook. I will sign up to be on Zia's team regarding housework -- I am TERRIBLE at it, and avoid it as much as possible. It's just a waste of good reading time, as far as I'm concerned. In fact, the ONLY way I can really get any housework done at all is if I listen to an audiobook while doing it. Hmmm, I wonder if there's an audiobook version of Home Comforts....

Thomas said...

I read this book a few years ago and really liked it. I recently discovered that there were two follow-up books: Love, Work, Children and Anything for Jane. I loved them all but I think I liked the third one the best. Although I really liked Morningside.

They all stand on their own, but I think reading Jane is enhanced by having the Morningside background. Love, Work, Children seemed less connected to Morningside. But they all help create a wonderful world. I hope Mendelson keeps writing novels.

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