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Daily Archives: July 17, 2009

Review and Giveaway: A Summer Affair by Elin Hilderbrand

A Summer AffairWhen I finished reading this book, I found myself having a book club discussion about it in my own head. I really wished I had someone to talk about it with. This is a sign of a good book club book.

I received this book via a Book Club Member & Book Bloggers Group, so book clubs were on my mind while reading it.  Even without that, I think the connection would have come to me.

From the Hachette Book Group Web Site:

Claire Danner Crispin, mother of four young children and nationally renowned glassblower, bites off more than she can chew when she agrees to co-chair the Nantucket’s Children Summer Gala.

Claire is asked to chair the benefit, in part, because she is the former high school sweetheart of rock star Max West. Max agrees to play the gala and it looks like smooth sailing for Claire-until she promises a “museum-quality” piece of glass for the auction, offers her best friend the catering job, goes nose-to-nose with her Manhattan socialite co-chair, and begins a “good-hearted” affair with the charity’s Executive Director, Lockhart Dixon.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is a troublesome book for me to rate. For me, it was a clear 4 stars as a book club book, but much closer to 3 stars as a straight read.

My big question for myself: If the main character’s adultery hadn’t made me so uncomfortable, how would I have rated the book? Other than this one decision (granted, the main subject of the book), I liked Claire, and was interested in the challenges in her life– as a mother, as a wife, as an artist. I identified with her desire to say “yes” when anyone asked something of her, and her putting away of her professional identity and replacing it with one of straight motherhood. Even though that role fits me much better than it did her, I envy her knowledge of what she truly wanted to be doing.

Claire’s best friend was probably my favorite character of the book. I didn’t agree with all of her decisions, either, but I understood where they came from. I loved going through her conflicted feelings. She wanted to know what was going on with her best friend’s life. When her suspicions were confirmed, she realized she really didn’t want to know, and had to figure out where to go next.

I found Claire’s husband and her lover to be almost non-entities to me. I couldn’t bring myself to care at all about either of them. I think this might be because the book (even the affair) was never about either of them. It was about Claire and her need to break out of her roles.

In the end, if I treat the adultery as a metaphor for recasting the rules for Claire’s life, I’d say overall, I liked the book.

For another take on A Summer Affair, check out Booking Mama’s review.

Giveaway information

Thanks to Hachette Books, I’m giving away five copies of A Summer Affair!  Find out if you think it will work for your book club, or just enjoy reading it yourself.

So:

  1. Leave a comment to enter. Be sure your e-mail address is valid, so I can notify you if you win.
  2. For another entry, let me know if you subscribe to my blog via RSS or e-mail, or if you follow me on Twitter. Thank you to my current subscribers, Welcome if you are new to my blog. (Including this in the same comment is fine)
  3. One more entry if you let other people know about this giveaway! On your blog, on Twitter, another social site.  Just let me know in a comment.
  4. As a bonus (for an additional entry) tell me what makes a good book club pick.

Having an address (not a PO Box) in the US or Canada is necessary. I’ll pick the winners on July 31.

And if your are thinking about discussing this book, or just want more to think about, here are some discussion questions from the Hachette Books Web Site:

1. Discuss the character of Claire Danner Crispin. What ultimately leads her to have an affair?

2. How does the author juxtapose Claire’s relationship as a young girl with Matthew “Max West” Westfield with her current relationship with Lock Dixon? How are the two loves connected, if at all?

3. Discuss the role of friendship in the novel. Which character proves to be the greatest friend by the summer’s end? Does the way Claire values friendship change as a result of the gala?

4. There are several working mothers in A Summer Affair, including Claire and her sister-in-law, Siobhan. Discuss the ways in which the pressures of being a working mother are portrayed in the novel. Does the book’s depiction of working mothers seem accurate and realistic to you?

5. A Summer Affair is told from multiple points of view. Who, aside from Claire, impressed you as the most compelling character? Did you find that your favorite character changed in the
course of the novel?

6. Discuss the role of glassblowing in Claire’s life and its importance to her identity. How does resuming her former passion affect Claire’s life as a wife and mother?

7. How does the island of Nantucket act as a character in A Summer Affair? Discuss the tension between the island’s summer residents and those who live there year-round.

8. What do you think the future holds for Claire, Siobhan, Lock, and Max? How do you think Claire will come to view the affair, and the gala, in the years to come?

Thank you to Hachette Book Group for my review copy of this book!

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Posted by on July 17, 2009 in Book Club, books, giveaway, reviews

 

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