Saturday, 24 July 2010

A Gate at the Stairs

Reader, I did not even have coffee with him.
That much I learned in college.
From the literary Jane Eyre and Agnes Grey to the superior chick-lit of The Nanny Diaries, I do like a good governess novel.

Tassie Keltjin, a farmer's daughter, leaves home to attend university. Looking for childcare work to supplement her income she is interviewed by Sarah Brink, a woman in her mid-forties who is planning to adopt a child. Hiring her immediately without seeming to check her references Sarah asks Tassie to accompany her through the traumatic process of meeting a mother who is giving up her baby for adoption.

Emmie, the child Sarah eventually adopts is mixed race and almost two years old. Tassie adores the child and admires the smart, liberal and educated Sarah who runs a restaurant. She is more ambivalent about Sarah's vain husband Edward. Gradually the story of Sarah and Edward unfolds and Tassie faces the realisation that people are not what they seem.

I like this sparky interview with Lorrie Moore in which she gives the interviewer as good as she gets.

In the mood for more contemporary fiction by American women I'm thinking of reading Donna Tartt's The Secret History. Anyone read this?


anothercookiecrumbles said...

I enjoyed the first part of Moore's book, but am still ambivalent about the second. I'd love to read her short stories next.

Steph said...

Oooh, I haven't yet read The Secret History but it's on my list. Apparently it's a lot like Tana French's novels, and I love Tana French, so that's a good enough comparison for me! Plus, it's got an academic setting, and I always love those types of reads. I would love to hear your thoughts on it if you do read it!

Anonymous said...

I'm interested to read this - I've heard great things around the blogosphere.

I recently read and reviewed The Secret History - I thought it was mindblowingly fantastic, but it is also very dark, so be prepared. An absolutely superb book.

Anonymous said...

I'll have to catch up on my Lorrie Moore. This one has been sitting on my shelf. I've been worried it will be a disappointment, like Barbara Kingsolver's Lacuna (now that the Orange Prize points to name-brand fawning, I'm leery).

But you have good taste, so I'll have to try it.

LizF said...

I really like Lorrie Moore's short stories but didn't get very far with A Gate on the Stairs when I first tried to read it, although admittedly it was an unrenewable library book and I was too busy to have much leisurely reading time.
I bought a copy anyway so will try again later.
I did try A Secret History years ago when there was so much fuss about it but didn't get very far though whether that is because it didn't suit me at the time or just wasn't my type of book, I'm not sure. Maybe I'll try again.

Shelley said...

My work is about American women, though not contemporary; but I have to cheer your choice of writer of the month.

I think Welty's story about the "P.O." may be the funniest short story ever written. Okay, maybe setting aside Thurber....

Vintage Reading said...

anothercookiecrumbles, I'm reading Birds of America, Moore is a brilliant wordsmith, but some of the stories are sooo depressing!

Steph, I bought The Secret History at the weekend - if you read it I'd love to compare notes. I'm not familiar with Tana French, I'll check her out. I love novels set in academia, too.

booksnob, I don't know how I missed your review - I searched back through your blog and found it - can't wait to read this.

frisbee, I did like the Lorrie Moore and I think it should have won the Orange although usually the prizewinners/nominations etc just pass me by. Jane Austen never won a competition!

LizF, some books/writers are just not for you. I've never got on with A S Byatt although I've tried at different times in my life. Not keen on Woolf either.

Shelley, I do intend to read more Welty. Short stories, next I think.

Mae said...

This sounds intriguing and I love that quote you put up. Very Jane Eyre.

And The Secret History is an amazing read. I sped through it in a day and half. I should re-read it.

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Susie Vereker said...

Yes, I enjoyed the Secret History. DT is a good writer. Think I preferred The Little Friend though, as Secret History dark and disturbing.
Reading the Gate at the Stairs at the mo, more slowly than usual as it's not something one can skip, is it. Will blog when finished. My novel Pond Lane and Paris is a governess story, though not Orange Prize stuff, I admit!
And thanks vm for highlighting the Rumer Godden new issues. Just blogged about The Peacock Spring.

Lauren said...

I thought this was just awful. did you ever end up reading it?