Posts From Author: new england

Maggie Shipstead’s “Seating Arrangements”

A wedding was always an aphrodisiac, full of temporary pairings driven by vicarious hope. Love was in the air, weak and snappy as static electricity. –¬†Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead (Knopf, 2012) Maggie Shipstead‘s debut novel,¬†Seating Arrangements¬†(Knopf, 2012), is a witty social comedy with an exploding whale at its heart. Set largely over the course of two days preceding a wedding on New England island Waskeke, it assumes the perspectives of a series of characters, mostly control-freak father-of-the-bride Winn Van Meter and jilted younger daughter Livia, as it reveals the emotions that coalesce around the lives of the uptight well-to-do as they come together and fall apart. It’s funny and sharp and unpleasant and relentlessly well observed. Winn is a vigorous fifty-nine, a man for whom “each day was a platform for accomplishment”. Heavily governed by social mores — he thinks somewhat reproachfully of his daughter Daphne as “a pregnant bride, no point in pretending otherwise” — he spends most of the book obsessing over his prospective entry into a posh golf club called the Pequod. (Appropriately, perhaps, his quarry is somewhat elusive.) He’s a patriarch of the old school, imagining and favouring male offspring: “His son would join the […]
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