[PDF / Epub] ★ The Maze at Windermere Author Gregory Blake Smith – Dolove.info
The Maze at Windermere, Gregory Blake Smith s staggeringly brilliant new novel, luxuriates in the demarcations of time It is an extraordinary demonstration of narrative dexterity Moving up and down through the strata of history, Smith captures the ever changing refractions of human desire.Any summary of this book s complex structure is bound to sound cumbersome, as though too much furniture has been crammed into too small a room But Smith, who teaches at Carleton College, is doing something preternatural here Although the entire novel takes place in the little seaside town of Newport, R.I., it contains five distinct stories spread over three centuries You can expect a little vertigo at first There are many characters at work in these superimposed plots, and the same few acres look disorientingly different in each period But Smith cycles through these eras, again and again, from today all the way back to the late 17th century, when witches were To read the rest of this review, go to The Washington Post https www.washingtonpost.com entert 3.5 This book appealed to me initially because it had excellent cover game It also wrongfully as it turned out suggested a Cloud Atlastype structure with multiple and intersecting stories separated through time.This is not David Mitchell by any stretch but it is an interesting book in its own way, echoing history back at the reader in surprising ways I don t know if it all worked but the attempt was honourable.The key character in this book is Newport, Rhode Island We explore it in five distinct time periods during it s humble beginnings as a Quaker outpost and revisit it as a major seaport during the American revolution and then a summer resort and playground for members of the gilded age 400 before bouncing back to Newport in 2011 Much changes over this time but a surprising amount stays the same I found this aspect of the novel fascinating, especially as the author cleverly weaves in little totems for you to find Were those the fireplace cherubs described in de Silva s home of 1778 now part of a restaurant in the 2011 how did one lose a nose The romantic outing to the Breakwater echoes a very similar excursion over 100 years earlier You certainly get a sense of deja vu while reading but also it explores the idea that, if not in the particulars, but in the generalities our lives have been lived, our mistakes made several times over I found that an interesting concept to mull upon The Maze at Windermereseems to draw influence from many sources there is a nod to Daphne du Maurier, and Edith Wharton but most specifically Henry James One entire section is narrated by him which does rather remind me of Colm Toibin s The Master The novella Daisy Miller also plays a particularly important role All of these historical and literary aspects predisposed me to this book I am always so enamoured of the shenanigans that occur when ruthless social climbers meet morally corrupting levels of wealth and privilege However, as with many multi storied novels, I inevitably feel disappointed when I am abruptly kicked out of my favourite story this could have easily been Franklin s book and lost when I try to reconnect several chapters later As much as I admired this and enjoyed the historical elements, I am not sure, in the end, if The Maze at Windermere didn t rather collapse like some elaborate 19th century confection under the weight of what it set out to do. one of the best books I ve read so far this year I was totally in awe The best a historical fiction can offer Five stories in different flavors about love, lust, desire, etc set in Newport, Rhode Island, a seaside town where many historical mansions are preserved It Covered than three centuries between late 1600s to 2011 Way beyond my ability to review this broad yet tightly weaved together book Instead I recommend the following review by Ron Charles posted in The Washington Post do I say this, but for this book I recommend the print version over audiobook. On the whole I was so impressed by The Maze at Windermere that I can t help but to forgive the moments where it failed to captivate me Gregory Blake Smith has created something that s an absolute masterclass of storytelling he weaves together seemingly unrelated plotlines all centered in Newport Rhode Island from 2011, 1896, 1863, 1778 and 1692 in ways both subtle and forthright, and the precision with which he manages this is feat is undeniable.But the stories themselves from each timeline vary in the level of engagement they offer To my surprise, I fell head over heels in love with the 2011 plot, which follows the strange friendship between a nearly retired tennis pro, Sandy, and an heiress with cerebral palsy This unconventional socialite, Alice, has to be one of the most vivid characters I have ever read I couldn t get her out of my head when I was reading this book and I still can t now that I ve finished I loved everything about their odd dynamic and tumultuous, melodramatic, tragic relationship This motivations of a secondary character in this storyline also provides the book with one of its greatest sources of intrigue which goes on to feed into a positively spectacular ambiguous ending that I can t talk about without spoiling But, it was perfection Unfortunately, all of the past timelines paled in comparison 1896 follows a gay man who s attempting to marry into high society 1863 follows a fictionalization of Henry James, an overt nod to the thematic parallels to Daisy Miller that litter the different narratives 1778 follows a British officer during the American Revolution I found him the most tiresome and 1692 follows a newly orphaned Quaker girl Each of these narratives had moments of searing brilliance, but at the same time, none of them was able to offer the same emotional draw as the present day storyline.That said, the structure of this book is nothing short of a delight for readers who enjoy riddles and puzzles and similar literary exercises I m almost definitely going to want to re read this at some point after I ve read Daisy Miller, because I feel like I ve only barely scratched the surface. I usually dislike dual time period books because one is always a lot interesting than the other However, in this book the author juggled 5 time periods in a very ambitious and writerly exercise that kept me engaged throughout The story is told in alternating chapters from the points of view of 4 male and 1 female protagonists, each set in Newport, Rhode Island Each protagonist has a very distinctive voice which is fortunate because towards the end of the book the pov begins to change rapidly, from paragraph to paragraph, and that could have been a confusing disaster In 2011, Sandy Alison is a retired tennis player with a bad knee He never managed to shake his reputation for lacking a killer instinct on the court His complicated relationships with 3 women at the elegant old Windermere estate get the better of him In 1896, Franklin Drexel is a handsome, snarky, witty and secretly gay lapdog to wealthy women, including the current owner of Windermere At 33, Drexel is aging out of his current position and needs to find a rich wife In 1863, 20 year old budding author Henry James Jr is keeping a notebook of his observances to use in his future writing which crops up in both the 2011 and 1896 stories He meets a young woman who wants from him than he can give and also confronts the devastation faced by the first negro regiment in the Civil War In 1778, English soldiers are occupying Newport and plundering its library and synagogue Major Ballard becomes obsessed with 16 year old Judith Da Silva, the daughter of a wealthy Jewish merchant Ballard really has no redeeming virtues Finally, in 1692 15 year old Prudence is a recently orphaned Quaker who has had to leave school in order to take care of her toddler sister and keep her father s business going with the help of her slave Ashes Prudence knows exactly how to get what she wants.Love, or something akin to love, plays a role in each of these stories, but this certainly isn t a romance novel Although 4 of the main protagonists are male, the female characters are definitely not shrinking violets There are lots of tricky little touches in the book, such as the use by 2 of the characters of Daisy Miller quotes to communicate to each other in 2011, or the similar naming of characters in different time periods Aisha Ashes The book may have been a little gimmicky, but it was very enjoyable and it was certainly different I received a free copy of the ebook from the publisher, however I wound up listening to the excellent audio book version borrowed from the library. The composition of this book is flawless and this is no small feat considering Gregory Blake Smith is interweaving 5 storylines set in 2011, 1896, 1863, 1778 and 1692 There are a multitude of connections between the narrative strands, some obvious, some subtle, and the degree of control this author exercises over his material without over constructing this maelstrom of characters and motives needs to be applauded, even if the story itself wasn t necessarily for me.The whole book is set in Newport, R.I., and all storylines revolve around questions of love and convention, in many respects playing with Henry James classic Daisy Miller We meet an aging second rate tennis pro who falls for a heiress with cerebral palsy, a secretly gay young man who aims to marry into high society, the actual Henry James who did live in Newport as a young man , a British officer during the American revolution, and an orphaned Quaker girl, all of them at turning points of their love lives The author has planted tons of cross references in all of these stories, thus playing with themes and ideas in different contexts the whole thing is an elaborate palimpsest, or to quote from the textAh, to be able to read both the surface and that which is below the surfaceAnd while the maze at the estate of Windermere is an actual thing, it is of course also a metaphorCan our Spirits be so bewilder d that our Minds and Hearts are as a MazeSpoiler alert Yes For people like me who love to read books that are riddles, this literary approach is of course a delight Unfortunately, I have to admit that the stories themselves did not really manage to captivate me Yes, they were interesting to read, but I was not really emotionally engaged, even though the topics discussed are so emotionally charged This might be a question of personal taste though, and I am sure that others might react differently to the way Gregory Blake Smith has set up his stories.All in all, a great literary adventure that should get some love from prize judges focusing on experimental fiction. A Richly Layered Novel Of Love, Ambition, And Duplicity, Set Against The Storied Seascape Of Newport, Rhode IslandA Reckless Wager Between A Tennis Pro With A Fading Career And A Drunken Party Guest The Stakes Are An Antique Motorcycle And An Heiress S Diamond Necklace Launches A Narrative Odyssey That Braids Together Three Centuries Of Aspiration And Adversity A Witty And Urbane Bachelor Of The Gilded Age Embarks On A High Risk Scheme To Marry Into A Fortune A Young Writer Soon To Make His Mark Turns Himself To His Craft With Harrowing Social Consequences An Aristocratic British Officer During The American Revolution Carries On A Courtship That Leads To Murder And, In Newport S Earliest Days, A Tragically Orphaned Quaker Girl Imagines A Way Forward For Herself And The Slave Girl She Has InheritedIn The Maze At Windermere Gregory Blake Smith Weaves These Intersecting Worlds Into A Brilliant Tapestry, Charting A Voyage Across The Ages Into The Maze Of The Human Heart I very nearly bailed on this after the first chapter what did I care about a sleazy tennis pro seducing rich women in Newport, R.I but am glad I persevered, as if this is not my favorite book of the year, it is destined to be in my top five Bold and daring in conception, brilliant and dazzling in execution, Smith s novel is a modern masterpiece I cannot fathom how he was able to so delicately and masterfully echo elements in his five storylines, without them becoming obvious or ham fisted Each of his characters is precisely rendered, even the minor ones, and in Alice du Pont he has created as beguiling and fascinating a creature as her progenitor, Daisy Miller side note this is the first fictional character with cerebral palsy that I can remember maybe Dickens Smike, but that isn t obviously stated I will probably re read this before the year is out it IS that good I could go on and on about Smith s feat, but instead, will be lazy and just refer interested readers to Ron Charles as usual sterling professional review Now, this was brilliant Five different story arcs over the course of five centuries in Newport, Rhode Island The stories blend historical fact and fiction, all the while referencing and echoing each other, intersecting, then veering away from each other, just like, wella maze 4.5 instead of the full five because there were a few characters I would have loved to see of, and a couple of plot threads that were never quite woven into the whole but maybe those were meant to be dead ends in the maze Those are just quibbles though because it was so nearly perfect Certainly broke me out of my recent rut of meh 3 star reads. An excellent historical novel with 5 storylines across 3 centuries The loose intertwining of the stories gives the book an added depth There s nothing not to like about this novel writing, plot s , characters are all perfectly developed and depicted It was a true pleasure to read.