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This Vacant Paradise

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3.21 of 5 stars 3.21  ·  rating details  ·  159 ratings  ·  36 reviews
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 debut novel, has the looks to marry w...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published March 1st 2011 by Counterpoint (first published June 10th 2009)
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Community Reviews

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Becky
Full disclaimer: I received a copy of this book for review.
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
Margaret
Victoria Patterson is brilliant. This modern day House of Mirth tells the story of Esther Wilson, whose beauty is her greatest asset. She knows this. Everyone knows this. Everyone, including Esther, expects her profit from it by marrying a rich man, no matter how unpleasant he may be. As Esther sabotages herself again again in this endeavor, however, her world begins to unravel and she begins to wonder who exactly she is and who, exactly, she can be. Read This Vacant Paradise for the story and t...more
BlackTar
Retelling of the House of Mirth. I really love House of Mirth. This is a retelling in modern day Orange county. At first I was ready to pretty confidently shoot it down as not working. The same scenario of dependence on wealth and a good marriage is much more convincing in a novel set a century or more ago and the characters in This Vacant Paradise just seemed incredibly shallow. And they are, but somehow they author manages to make you complicit in that. The roles the characters play are create...more
Jason
I'm a fan, Victoria is my BFF, I know, she writes on my blog, and I think here collection, Drift, walks on water. I'm not a fan, I'm a one man promotional machine dedicated to getting Victoria Patterson and her writing into the sunlight. I can't talk to you if you have not read Drift. Don't stop, go to your local bookstore, (online, on the street) and get a copy. Kate Christensen raves This Vacant Paradise in the New York Times Book review today. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/06/boo...

Go ahead....more
Judy


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
J
Excited to remember our time in SoCal, especially during the midwest winter, but I couldn't finish this book:

- 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
Judith
This is a really cautious thumbs-up, so buyer beware.

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
Carla
Stopped after Part One. The reason I started reading this was that it's billed as a retelling of House of Mirth, irresistible to a Wharton fan. Well, not. Patterson has no compassion for her characters. She also likes to use Really Big and/or Obscure Words ,so much so that you notice them.
Sigh. Time to read H of M for the umpteenth time and empathize (whoopsie-Big Word) with Lily Bart's tragic slide.
Sandy
Well crafted, contemporization of my favorite, Edith Wharton's House of Mirth, but as with the original.....
MAJOR d
o
w
n
er.
Weird ending.
Katherine
*This book pales in comparison to Wharton’s House of Mirth, although I give the author credit for an interesting idea. Unfortunately there is not one likeable (or even sympathetic) character, the sex scenes are tedious (this is an actual quote: “ ‘Oh, he said, ‘oh, oh.’ ‘Oh,’ she responded, ‘oh, oh, oh’” (166)), and the minutiae overwhelming. We simply do not need descriptions of every mouthful of food, every sip of whatever, and every mouth wipe with a napkin.


“But he could feel his ego pawing a...more
Jane
I kept reading because I love the idea of reading an author's re-imagining of another book I've loved. In this case it was Wharton's "House of Mirth." The setting is Los Angeles, the general moral compass is "vacant" and the characters, except perhaps for Rick and Nora, are lost. Rick takes care of the main character, Esther's demented, aging, alcoholic grandmother. He does so with unbelievable tenderness. My mother would have loved him in her last years. But even the occasionally lovely sentenc...more
Jane
Jun 01, 2011 Jane rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Jane by: read/heard a review
Shelves: fiction
I had a slow start with this book and put it down, but when I picked it back up, I got hooked right away. I think it is a thoughtfully written novel, humorous at times and heart-wrenching at others. Its depictions of Orange County life can seem over the top, but simultaneously I thought the author did an excellent job at capturing aspects of inner life and family dynamics. It is unusual to find a contemporary novel that makes a theme of shame and deals so well its effects among the characters an...more
Steve
I really enjoyed this book, though it is not a "fun" book. It's a tragedy. I can attest that there are real-life Esthers out there. For them the ending often is tragic.

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
Kathleen Maguire
This book was indescribably awful, and the only reason I didn't give it zero stars is that it was somewhat intriguing to figure out which characters in this book corresponded to the real ones from House of Mirth. The NYTimes gave it a halfway decent review and House of Mirth is my favorite book ever so I figured I'd give it a try. The writing is atrocious and the plot implausibly simplistic, with the addition of totally gratuitous backstory that contributes nothing to character development or th...more
Jim
This came highly recommended but I found it a pretty dull slog until the last thirty pages. That's when the characters seem to show promise and life. And then it was over.

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
Suzanne
I read Patterson's collection of interconnected short stories, Drift, last year and liked it quite a bit better than this, her first novel. Same setting and themes: people at the far lower end of the middle class, or just barely hanging on to that lower rung, trying to get by in the keeping-up-with-the-Jones world of glitzy Newport Beach. Vacant Paradise was an adequate read, but the stories were more skillfully rendered.
Anise Stevens
I'd recommend this book for a woman in her early twenties or an undergrad. The protagonist's main concern is figuring what she wants from life after realizing she's always done what is expected. While the writing is good and the characters true life, I couldn't get past page 200 because the subject matter didn't intrigue me at this point in my life. For Edith Wharton fans, this is a modern day House of Mirth.
Lindsey Benage
Well, it was nice to read a chic lit book with some depth exploring social class between the rich and the poor (had some memorable quotes about such) but, I found the book very disjointed at times and at times hard to follow. I enjoyed that the ending was tied up in a pretty little bow because that isn't real life but not the most enjoyable book I have read, would probably not recommend.
Abby Frucht
I love this wise, elegant, gritty contemporary reiteration of Edith Wharton's House of Mirth. The latter is one of my all time favorites, in part because of its handling of wealth and penury, money and sexuality,the constant exchange of different types of currency. Victoria Patterson nails that, too, and reading her novel with the other in mind (and heart) is riveting.
Amy Wilder
May 01, 2011 Amy Wilder marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Awesome! House of Mirth retold in modern day Newport Beach? Can it end more happily? I hope so.

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.
Jeff
Patterson makes a convincing case that 1990s Newport Beach might as well be the setting for a turn-of-the last-century novel because concerns for class lead its characters into the same plot lines as those in Edith Wharton's House of Mirth. All the fun is in the set-up--the second half seems more forced.
Lisa
The arc of this story is nicely conceived. I enjoyed not knowing where the story was going. The distasteful characters, however, were distracting, and I nearly quit reading, so I easily could have missed seeing the well crafted arc.
Natasha
I couldn't put it down. The characters are so well-defined, I felt like I knew them well. The writing is beautiful, descriptions of the Southern California landscape - particularly the many colors and textures of the ocean - so vivid.
Cheryl
Feb 20, 2011 Cheryl marked it as interesting-possibilities
Recommended to Cheryl by: First Reads
Description sounded interesting: "Victoria Patterson shines a keen and often wickedly humorous light on our very American obsessions with class, race, age, and the roles of men and women in our strive toward upward mobility."
Liz
The plot was somewhat interesting, if vapid and slow-moving, but the writing just felt very flat to me and I could not motivate myself to keep reading.
Rita Gonzales
Every young woman can relate to Esther, even one from Pico! I love Patterson's long and fluid style. Can't wait to read more of her books.
Tajma
This was an entertaining read but not nearly as insightful as I was led to believe from my beloved NY Times book review.
Evan
An unflinchingly grim portrait of hopelessly shallow people - yet an admittedly quite effective one.
Genna Sarnak
Feb 20, 2011 Genna Sarnak marked it as to-read
I won a copy of this and will update my status once I have finished reading it!
Harvey
Trying to break out of my comfort zone of Crime Fiction...but I just didn't get this one.
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Victoria Patterson is the author of the novel This Vacant Paradise, a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice: “Patterson beautifully parses the consequences of one woman’s fall in this memorable, penetrating, fully achieved novel.” Drift, her collection of interlinked short stories, was a finalist for the California Book Award and the 2009 Story Prize. The San Francisco Chronicle selected Drif...more
More about Victoria Patterson...
Drift The Peerless Four Peerless Four, The: A Novel The Late American Novel: Writers on the Future of Books The Beautiful Anthology

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