The center of the turning world
Reviewed in the United States on 20 March 2018
Published just in time for summer vacation, The High Season is the kind of book that you can take along on the plane or tuck under your beach chair. The book follows the summer adventures of Ruthie, resident of a near-Hamptons community and not-quite-divorced mom of stunning teen Jem. Subplots play on themes like love, home, career, parenting, friendship, jealousy, and near-death experiences. In fact, there's so much crammed into this 400-page book that after completing it, I felt as though I'd consumed a too-large meal and just wanted to go lie down and nap for a few hours.
Much of the book focuses on the perspectives of those on the outside looking in, including Ruthie and Doe, an upwardly mobile employee of the museum that Ruthie directs. All the trappings of Hamptons wealth -- the clothes, the parties, the meals, the posturing -- are depicted by Ruthie, Doe, and others on the fringes. I've never been to the Hamptons, and maybe rich people on Long Island are that different from rich people around here, but I quickly tired of that motif.
My main issue with the book was the number of characters introduced. The eight pages of chapter 4, for example, first focus on Doe, then quickly throw in Daniel, Annie, Catha, Tim, Kim, Jassy, Shannon, Shawn, Stephanie, and Shari, only some of whom appear again. After I realized that Ruthie was going to get involved with Joe, I had to backtrack across many chapters to figure out who he was and how he'd entered the story. Too, there are tangents involving an expensive watch and forged artwork that seemed inserted to maintain a frenzied pace rather than to add dimension to the plot.
The epilogue ties together most of the significant threads. For me, nowhere near a beach, it felt like the last tedious mile of a marathon. But it's the kind of book made for sunbathing, not for analysis, and thus will be the perfect pageturner for many this summer.