Sunday, January 25, 2004

I spent a delicious late afternoon and early evening reading yesterday. I'm completely engrossed in Loose Lips by Claire Berlinski. Ahhh... the joys of vicarious experience! Lots of detailed information about a CIA agent's training and a terrific plot.

I turned the last page on Morningside Heights by Cheryl Mendelson. As I begin to formulate in my mind what it is about, I'm surprised I liked it as much as I did. It does have a plot and well-defined characters, two of my prerequisites for a novel. But, over the course of 326 pages, not all that much happens. Throughout the entire book, Anne and Charles Braithwaite are faced with the necessity of moving away from their beloved New York neighborhood. The death of an elderly upstairs neighbor and the peculiar circumstances surrounding her two wills form the most potent plotmaker. The mostly hate/love relationship of Morris and Merritt, the two nearly middle-aged singles, adds interest. And that's it. So, given the lack of a dynamic plot, what is it that makes this such a captivating book?

I loved the way Mendelson opened up each character's head--dissecting their thoughts, emotions, and ideas. This is where all the action takes place. It is a cerebral book, which is not surprising, given that Mendelson has been a philosophy professor as well as a practicing lawyer. The New York setting made the story all the more fun for me. Mendelson obviously knows every inch of Morningside Heights, and I enjoyed the book all the more because of it.


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