05 April 2016

Today's Read: Three-Martini Lunch by Suzanne Rindell

Review: Three-Martini Lunch by Suzanne RindellWhat would you do to realize your dream of being a successful author or editor? Are there any limits? In the postwar years in New York City, two young men and one woman learn the answers to those questions:

Cliff: Greenwich Village in '58 was a madman's paradise. In those days a bunch of us went around together drinking too much coffee and smoking too much cannabis and talking all the time about poetry and Nietzsche and bebop. I had been running around with the same guys I knew from Columbia—give or take a colored jazz musician here or a benny addict there—and together we would get good and stoned and ride the subway down to Washington Square. I guess you could say I liked my Columbia buddies all right. They were swell enough guys but when you really got down to it they were a pack of poser wannabe-poets in tweed and I knew it was only a matter of time before I outgrew them.
Three-Martini Lunch by Suzanne Rindell (Putnam, 2016, chap. 1; uncorrected proofs)

Quick Facts
  • Setting: late 1950s/early 1960s New York City
  • Circumstances: Cliff, Miles, and Eden, all just out of college, have dreams of making it in the publishing world. Cliff and Miles want to be writers, and Eden wants to be an editor. Each, however, has to overcome sociocultural expectations and to find a way around a variety of roadblocks. At the same time, they're faced with moral and ethical dilemmas and make choices they have to live with forever.
  • Characters: Cliff, the privileged son of an important editor; Miles, a Harlem native who managed to obtain a good education; Eden, a Midwestern girl trying to make it in the city; various friends and enemies in the Village and in publishing
  • Themes: friendship, sociocultural issues (religion, race, sexual identity, gender, social class), moral choices, love, father-son relationships, marriage, ambition
  • Genre: literary fiction 
  • General Thoughts: Because I'm an editor, I was immediately hooked on the publishing theme. I loved the period details concerning Eden's struggles as a woman and as a Jew in the business. Cliff's personality made me want to strangle him--what a spoiled brat! And poor Miles, such a good guy with so much to deal with: being black was only the beginning.
  • Thoughts on the Plot: The story is told from the alternating perspectives of the three main characters, and I always enjoy seeing different reactions to the same set of events and people. I can't say I especially liked any of the trio, but their sometimes cringe-worthy thoughts and actions made the book interesting.
  • Note on diversity: Bravo to Rindell for creating a Jewish character who seemed real and relatable. Eden's Jewishness has a part to play, but other than that, she's just a regular person. Thank you.
  • Recommendations: A terrific snapshot into the pre-civil rights and women's movement era. Rindell's period details of the publishing world and of the social scene in New York give the novel authenticity. The characters have to balance their all-consuming dreams against their personal ethics as well as decide how much of their true self they're willing to share with the world. Whether you agree with their choices or not, you'll have a lot to think about. In fact, Three-Martini Lunch would be a great book club choice.
  • Audiobook: The unabridged audiobook edition (Penguin Audio; 16 hr, 52 min) was read by Will Damron, J. D. Jackson, and Rebecca Lowman. There were no weak links in the performances, and each narrator highlighted his or her character's personality well. As a group, the pacing was good and the expressiveness kept my attention without interfering with my own interpretation of events. I also appreciated that all of the narrators kept any hint of foreshadowing from their performances. Recommended listen.


rhapsodyinbooks 4/5/16, 6:46 AM  

This sounds so good, and I love the fact that it was an ensemble audio - I love those! It is so distracting to me to listen to men trying (and usually failing) to sound like women! I must say when I saw the title of your post I thought maybe it was a new meme featuring books you read while having a 3-martini lunch, ha ha!

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea 4/5/16, 7:24 AM  

From the title alone I might have passed but, I do like the sound of this one. Thanks for sharing.

sherry fundin 4/5/16, 7:41 AM  

I would probably pass on this, but I am glad you enjoyed it.
sherry @ fundinmental My TT

JoAnn 4/5/16, 8:29 AM  

That's a great intro! I also like the setting and premise, and always enjoy listening to Rebecca Lowman. Might just give this one a shot...

bermudaonion 4/5/16, 8:56 AM  

The time period, the setting, and the themes all sound terrific to me!

Kathy Martin 4/5/16, 9:29 AM  

I'm not sure I could read a whole book if it is from Cliff's viewpoint. He reminded me a Holden Caulfield only a little bit older. This week it is an historical romance - Luck Is No Lady by Amy Sandas - on my adult blog. Happy reading!

Monica's Bookish Life 4/5/16, 9:40 AM  

Love the setting and the intro! I'd keep reading!

Nise' 4/5/16, 10:18 AM  

Rebecca Lowman is one of my favorite narrators. I'd listen to the book.

Jackie McGuinness 4/5/16, 10:41 AM  

Thanks, just added to my TBR list.

Literary Feline 4/5/16, 10:47 AM  

I wasn't sure about this one, but your breakdown of the book and the opening you shared have me thinking I might want to give this a try after all. You've got me especially curious about the audio version!

Emma Litttlefield 4/5/16, 10:58 AM  

Not sure about this one. The language didn't grab me. Will wait for the review.

Laurel-Rain Snow 4/5/16, 11:49 AM  

I can't wait to read this one! I ordered it from Amazon Vine, so it should be arriving this week. I'm also a big fan of anything set in New York, especially Greenwich Village, and also books about the publishing world.

Thanks for sharing and giving me a taste of what I'll be reading soon. And thanks for visiting my blog.

Sarah (Sarah's Book Shelves) 4/5/16, 12:30 PM  

I was going to say I hated the voice of the guy in the first paragraph, so would probably not continue (even though the premise intrigues me and I've heard good things!).....but then your comment that he was a spoiled brat cleared things up! So, I'd keep reading!

Sandra Nachlinger 4/5/16, 12:33 PM  

Cliff definitely sounds like a spoiled brat in the opening, and what an ego! I can see how he wouldn't be likable. Although I doubt if I could actually relate to any of the characters, it would be fun to get a glimpse of New York City during that era. Sounds like a good book.
Thank you for stopping by my blog and leaving a comment.

Catherine @ Book Club Librarian 4/5/16, 2:36 PM  

I like the setting and premise, so I'd keep on reading.

Cleopatra Loves Books 4/5/16, 3:16 PM  

I'm very taken with this one - good to see that the author's put a 'real' Jewish person into the story too - that combined with publishing makes me want to read it.

Anonymous,  4/5/16, 3:24 PM  

I like that time period, would read.

Margot 4/5/16, 8:47 PM  

The opening paragraph doesn't impress me, but your write-up does. This is my time period and I want to read this book.

Iliana 4/6/16, 7:51 PM  

This sounds like a really good period piece. I enjoyed the quick facts and will have to add this one to my list!

Cyn @ Bookmunchies 4/6/16, 8:22 PM  

Sounds like an interesting read! I like the sounds of the setting. Thanks for sharing (:

Cyn @ Bookmunchies

Daryl 4/7/16, 12:21 PM  

you always make things sound so good ... even when its not something i would normally gravitate to ... thanks!

(Diane) bookchickdi 4/13/16, 10:12 AM  

This book sounds terrific and I loved Suzanne's The Other Typist. I'm going to read this one for sure.

Laurie C 4/14/16, 8:27 AM  

I like the sound of this one, and I also liked The Other Typist on audio (which was maybe a recommendation of yours, also). I like books about publishing, so I've added it to my TBL list.

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