Saturday, October 10, 2009

A Summer Affair, by Elin Hilderbrand


Just how perfect does one's life have to be before it's perfect enough?  Elin Hilderbrand attempts to answer this question in A Summer Affair.   After reading this book, I'd say it's obviously never perfect enough. But is that a realistic answer, even for a novel?

The story revolves around Nantucket Island and resident artist Claire Danner Crispin, the thirty-something wife of Jason (repeatedly described as a handsome blond with a six pack ab) and mother to four children, aged ten and under. There are undercurrents running through the marriage, specifically relating to Claire's profession of glass-blowing, from which she has taken a forced hiatus after an accident.

Claire is asked by Lock Dixon, a wealthy resident with a wife whose car accident leaves her with no social tact to speak of,  to co-chair the Summer Gala for Nantucket's Children, a local charity.  She is hesitant at first but because she can't say no to a request, she accepts the job. Her acceptance of  the position comes with two obligations. She must return to glass blowing to create the auction piece for the gala, a chandelier, and she's asked to procure the entertainment for the evening in the form of  Max West, formerly known as Matthew Westfield, now an international rock superstar, and Claire's first love from high school.

The story takes a funky twist when Claire begins a torrid affair with Lock Dixon. At this point, I was having trouble understanding the attraction between the two, and why, even with some tension at home, Claire would want to endanger her family life and marriage with this particular man. This is not based on any moral high ground.  The author simply never really makes this point with me. And any affection I had for Claire as a character went out the window at this point.  Hilderbrand then throws Max West into the mix. He's still in love with Claire and needs her to rescue him from his twenty year old demons. He practically proposes to her the night before the gala (does anyone remember Claire is married?).

No, near perfection is definitely not enough for Claire. And while the author makes you feel the desperation that Claire feels as she's caught up in her obsession with Lock,  it never quite rings true for this character. The way Claire's story unfolds  reminds me of one of her failed attempts at blowing the glass that would form the perfect chandelier arm; the result is too fragile to support even itself.

I have one more Elin Hilderbrand to try. We'll see if that one holds any weight.

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