This Vacant Paradise
The 1990s—Newport Beach, California. Money is God. A man’s worth is judged by the size of his boat, the make of his car. A woman’s value is assessed by the blank perfection of her quantifiable desirability: dress size, cup size, the whiteness of her teeth. And oh yes: her youth. Though Esther Wilson, the heroine of Victoria Patterson’s profound and electric debut novel, ha...more
I knew nothing about Victoria Patterson or her previous work when I received this book, but I am always willing to try new things, so I love when I get to review something outside of my box. Reading the description for this book, I was fully prepared for a light, fun read, perhaps with a little bit of depth thrown in for good measure. Like a social satire in the spirit of Austen, for example.
But my goodness, was I wrong. This is no whi ...more
I was introduced to Victoria Patterson through her essay in the wonderful collection, Bound to Last. This is her first novel, set in Newport Beach, CA. Esther Wilson is poised on the fault line between privilege and economic distress. Her beauty and the demands of super matriarch Grandma Eileen require a suitable husband if only she can find one that appeals to her at least a little. The trouble is that at 33, time is running out, not to mention that her current suitor fills her with boredom an ...more
- Beginning on page 6, there were graphic descriptions of the female body and sexual acts. It felt pornographic to me. I am shocked the writer is female, she seems devoid of normal feminine sensitivities. It felt like a book that a horny man would write.
- The characters depicted as evil/repressive in this book seem to be rich, republican, religious, racist and "anti-gay". It contained all ...more
I got this book because it was about Orange County, CA. ( where I live), written by an Orange County woman, and the NYT review I read said that it was a modern day version of Edith Wharton's "House of Mirth" (which I love). The story line revolves around Esther, a beautiful girl who has had money all her life and suddenly has none, but is dependent on her rich bitch of a grandmother's whimsical attention. She lives in an oceanside house in Ne ...more
*I later re-read House of Mirth, which I clearly didn't remember very well because at least at the beginning there are a lot of character parallels with This Vacant Paradise. HOWEVER, this is still pretty totally different and not in a good way.
Victoria Patterson chose the perfect title for her book about Newport Beach, California, and I chose the title for this review because it was the first word that came to my mind. The Newport Beach I remember is a microcosm of what ails our society, and I moved across the country to get as far away as possible as soon as I could. Yes, I could have lived elsewhere in Orange County, but I would have been surrounded by people whose goal was to own a McMansion in Newport. I am an admitted ...more
Sigh. Time to read H of M for the umpteenth time and empathize (whoopsie-Big Word) with Lily Bart's tragic slide.
“But he could feel his ego pawing a ...more
In my experience, as hard as it is for people who have never had wealth, and yearn to get it; I think it is much harder for folks who had it in youth, lost it, and yearn to get it back.
Esther was tragic, more so because she was unable to live in the moment and accept life for what it was, and so life slipped through her fingers. A ...more
I loved the description of Fashion Island, but Newport Beach is so ripe for skewering, and having spent way too much time around there during the midnineties, I felt the author could have done so much more with the setting, the flash-and-crash crowd. So I guess I had expectations.
In sum: I thought it was a little more Theodore ...more
Saw her read, very close adaptation of the original with thoughtful updates and an equally compelling heroine. It was the GoodReads pick of the night, and I'm impressed with those of you who picked it.