Sunday, February 17, 2013

Indiscretion by Charles Dubow

Next time I fall into a reading funk, I think I just need somebody to remind me that if I take a few moments to publicly whine about being in a reading funk, maybe, just maybe I'll chase it away.  A few weeks ago, I was starting to think that books were something I only enjoyed acquiring, not so much reading.  Then, I dug into what was an unexpected funk-buster, Indiscretion by Charles Dubow. 

Here, yet again, I said yes to a copy for review, and by the time the book showed up on my doorstep I was second-guessing myself.  Once I read the summary again, I found it sounded much like a book I read last summer and just felt "meh" about, but I cracked it open anyway, still worried about adding another "meh" book to my funk-stricken reading life.

Happily, Indiscretion is nothing like the book I thought it would resemble, and I devoured it with glee, having discovered that I do still like reading books after all! 

There is an innate greediness that is part of the human condition.  It drove Eve to eat the apple; it impelled bonaparte to invade Russia and caused Scott to die in the frozen wastes of the Antarctic.  We have different names for it.  What is curiosity other than greed for experience, for recognition, for glory?  For activity to distract ourselves from ourselves?  We hate the idea that we have come as far as we are going to go.  And we are not content with what we have or how far we have come.  We want more, whether it is food, knowledge respect, power, or love.  And that lack of contentment pushes us to try new things.  To brave the unknown, to alter our lives and risk losing everything we already had.

It's an idyllic summer in the Hamptons when Claire meets the Winslow family: Harry, Maddy, and their young son, Johnny.  Harry is a National Book Award-winning author whose story-telling prowess makes him a favorite in their social circle.  His wife, Maddy, is a beautiful woman from a rich family who has a generous soul despite her family's harshness.   In their cottage near the beach, the family throws parties, plays tennis, and is nearly universally loved by everyone, especially Claire.

Claire met a man in the city who invited her out to his house in the Hamptons for the weekend, where she discovers that the two aren't having a weekend to themselves, but a weekend with a few of Clive's irritating clients.  When the group attends a party at the Winslows' house, Claire quickly becomes enamored of the family and the life that they live.  When things go bad with Clive, Harry and Maddy adopt Claire into their circle of friends for the summer.  The summer passes in a perfect series of cook-outs and tennis matches and parties, but when it ends, and Claire learns that Harry, Maddy, and Johnny will be leaving for Rome for a year, things begin to unravel.  What follows is a slow unfolding of deception and tragedy that will change all of their lives forever.

The first thing I noticed about Indiscretion is that it has tons of great, believable dialogue.  I don't remember that I love good dialogue, and I rarely think to miss it in books that are a little quieter, but when it shows up, I always appreciate how it breathes life into a story and seems to move it along at a quicker pace.  Even better is when dialogue brings out aspects of characters so that readers don't have to be told that Harry tells great stories that draw people into his orbit or that Maddy's innate decency is put into practice as she welcomes Claire into her life.  Dubow's novel is filled with just such excellent dialogue, but just the same it doesn't rely on it too heavily.  Rather, it provides just another window into the house where Walter's narration has opened the door.

Walter is Maddy's best friend from childhood who has only grown closer to Maddy and her family with time.  As such, Walter makes for a great narrator.  Certainly, he might be a little biased, but as the stalwart family friend and perennial bachelor, he has a unique perspective on the events at hand.  He tells the story of his friends' downfall with unique insight and the wisdom of an observer that is both a part of the story, yet not so involved as to lose all perspective.  Drawing together the things he experiences first-hand with the things he learns over time, Walter collects a complete picture of events, and his recollection is vivid and lightly seasoned with, at times, philophical reflection on the tragic events that come to pass in his friends' lives.

Indiscretion is a dark and unnerving story of a seemingly perfect family falling from grace, told with such flare that it's impossible to look away until the last page is turned.

(Thanks to the the publisher for providing me with a copy in exchange for my honest review.)


  1. It sounds like a page turner. I'm glad it got you out of your funk.

  2. I loved this book. I agree with you about the dialogue, and the characters were drawn perfectly in a plot which did not disappoint. It was one of my most memorable reads of 2012.

  3. "A few weeks ago, I was starting to think that books were something I only enjoyed acquiring, not so much reading"

    Oh you made me laugh because I've thought this same thing about myself so many times :p This really does sound like a good one!! Glad it got you out the reading funk :)

  4. I love it when a "meh" book turned into a "yay" book!

  5. Yay for the end of a reading funk! I'm glad the right book jumped off your shelves at you. :)

  6. Maybe that's why I don't read covers and dust jackets--otherwise I'd probably think everything sounded "meh"

    Glad this one busted your funk!! I hate when those creep up.

  7. This sounds deliciously juicy - I am going to look for it.