Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Seating Arrangements” as Want to Read:
Seating Arrangements
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Seating Arrangements

3.03  ·  Rating details ·  17,548 ratings  ·  2,515 reviews
Winn Van Meter is heading for his family’s retreat on the pristine New England island of Waskeke. Normally a haven of calm, for the next three days this sanctuary will be overrun by tipsy revelers as Winn prepares for the marriage of his daughter Daphne to the affable young scion Greyson Duff.  Winn’s wife, Biddy, has planned the wedding with military precision, but arrang ...more
Hardcover, 302 pages
Published June 12th 2012 by Knopf (first published 2012)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.03  · 
Rating details
 ·  17,548 ratings  ·  2,515 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Seating Arrangements
Jun 29, 2012 rated it it was ok
When, WHEN will I learn to avoid these insufferable Iowa Writers' Workshop books, all of which blend together in a sea (ocean analogy intentional) of WASP despair? I worry they must be arming these Iowa students with copies of "Catcher in the Rye", "The Great Gatsby", and enough existential, end-of-empire ennui to fell a country club (or this weary reader, at least).

"Seating Arrangements" is the story of the Van Meter family, who is preparing for the eldest daughter's marriage at the family comp
not in the right mood i guess.
Aug 26, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2012
I should know by now that choosing a book because its cover is cute and pastel and featuring two lobsters in love is not reason enough. And yet, those were my main motivations in reading Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead. Halfway through reading this book I stopped and asked myself if I was failing as a reader—perhaps it was a satire and not meant to be read with an earnest eye. It wasn’t until the last sentence that I felt safe in saying that there was definitely some attempted criticism ...more
Dec 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiftyfiftyme, 2012
A review of Seating Arrangements, aka, The Whitest Book I've Read All Year. And I read The Marriage Plot.

A few nights ago, as I was preparing to check this book out of a venerable New England institution that shall remain nameless, I felt the hand of a man I knew to be very elderly graze the entirety of my ass, from left to right. As if to explain the action, the owner of the hand leaned in to whisper the title of this book into my ear. Wine and cheese were had by all.

I recount this story becaus
Elyse  Walters
May 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
UPDATE: $1.99 special today! This book is GREAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I should have given it a solid 5 stars when I read I STILL remember it!!!! The characters will make you cringe ---(none of them are likable) ---but you'll have soooooooo much fun with this story). A wedding from hell........ lol
Maggie is a wonderful writer!!! I can't wait for a 'new release' from her! This book 'is' worth jumping at for $1.99

4.7 stars

*Maggie Shipstead's* writing is explosive and exciting!!!!!!

In a strange twist of irony, this book came to me as a recommendation from Sarah of at a time when I was literally working on seating arrangements for our daughter’s upcoming wedding. Serendipity!

Thankfully this group of pretentious, shallow WASP-ish characters in the book bears no relationship to my own family. But what fun they were to read about. The VanMeter family, which includes the pregnant bride-to-be, Daphne, her parents, Winn and Biddy, along with her
Jun 22, 2012 rated it it was ok
I read so many great reviews about this book that I thought I has to be great. Now, having just finished I am wondering what all the hype is about? Maybe, I am not sophisticated enough to enjoy a book about a family that I thought were not very deep and so self involve they can't be bothered to think about anyone but themselves. I don't know, it was just a big let down.
The Story is about Winn, a 59 year old married father of 2 daughters. His oldest is getting married, she is seven months pregna
Jun 13, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2012, kindle
What a puzzle. It's been a long time since I've read a book about which I felt so little. Seating Arrangements contains some beautiful writing and deftly woven dialogue, characters who seem real enough, if reassuringly unlike anyone I've ever known, and a few laugh-out-loud moments ("Why had this man of all men made so many sons who wanted to fuck his daughters?"). We get plenty of viewpoints as the story reveals itself, but the transitions between them feel contrived, as though we're meant to b ...more
Emi Bevacqua
Nov 18, 2012 rated it did not like it
Have I all of a sudden become 85 years old and intolerant of all popular culture?? Last night I gasped and tssked through the film adaptation of The Descendants, sputtering that if viewers see that George Clooney's own children don't respect him then they're going to be all like oh well I guess it's okay if my kids don't respect me either. And now here I am reading Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead and being similarly outraged! This book, in a word, is MISOGYNISTIC. The whole premise is I ...more
Jun 11, 2013 rated it it was ok
Boo hoo. being rich is such a drag because sometimes your beach house on an exclusive island isn't enough, and you want to get into a private club, but they won't have you.

Here's an example of some really bad writing from this book: "The lobsters had turned the clownish red of death." Blech. Bad writing. It abounds in this book. Not everywhere, but it's there. And it strikes you, and you go, "What the...?" and then you move on, try to shake it off, but you're still like, "What kind of stupid met
Jun 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Seating Arrangements
Maggie Shipstead

My " in a nutshell" summary...

Family and friends gather on and island for a wedding.  A mix of beliefs and personalities   lead to an interesting weekend.

My thoughts after reading...

Hmmm...I truly enjoyed this book.  It was very character driven but in spite of preppy goofy names...everyone was easy to remember.  It had all the things I love in a book...prep schools, clubbiness, very dysfunctional characters, odd situations,  drinking and reasonably bad beha
Winn Van Meter and his family head for a retreat on the New England island of Waskeke. While this is normally a haven of relaxation for Winn, now it’s overshadowed by the preparation of his daughter’s wedding. A weekend with his family and his daughter’s bridesmaids only days before the big event is never a recipe for the calmness or solitude he is accustomed to in this house.

Part social satire, part chick lit, this is surprisingly intelligent and humorous in between the relationship drama of th
Ron Charles
May 13, 2012 rated it really liked it
When I was an English teacher, we always ended the school year with a ritual argument about summer reading. My erudite opponents claimed students should gird their loins and trudge through George Eliot’s “Middlemarch” or some other Improving Literature. My free-spirited comrades and I countered that June, July and August were months to let sun-kissed students wander barefoot through the stacks, picking at whim whatever titles they might enjoy.

Many of us are still silently carrying out that argum
Jul 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
A smart and funny look at a family confronting change -- a wedding, a soon to be born grandchild, prospective infidelity, a daughter destabilized by the end of her first serious relationship and, most of all, the unwinding of decades of self-delusions. Maggie Shipstead's portrayal of the Van Meter's during the few days before the eldest daughter's wedding is a pitch perfect satire and a well crafted examination of a individuals confronting their long held beliefs about themselves and their relat ...more
Nov 25, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: dramatic-fiction
Depressing. There, I said it. Ok, there is critical acclaim for this young author describing a jaded view of life among the "monied classes" on the Eastern Seaboard, with their pretensions outweighing in value apparently the love of their children.

She makes a good effort, I guess. Life is messy for everyone, in spite of our efforts to make everything pretty, belong to the best clubs, wear the right clothes. We are all human but the monied classes get to experience life differently, with or with
Jun 24, 2014 rated it liked it
If you dissected the pages of Seating Arrangements trying to locate its literary heart, you’d find nothing bloody or moving or living but instead a cold, hard machine that transmits keen social analysis and psychological insight but nothing emotional or affective. Which is, perhaps, the point. Just look at the title—Seating Arrangements—it’s about a marriage, a celebration of love uniting of two people, but the title has reduced it to the behind-the-scenes mechanics required to organize such an ...more
Ana Ovejero
Sep 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
This story happens during a weekend, just three days of a family celebrating the weeding of the eldest. However, the author is able to show in that short period of time the strenghts and weaknesses of the human heart.

With a tragicomedy tone, we meet the issues unearthed by the fact that the whole family Van Meters is together in their beach house. Upper class, wealthy, member of golf clubs, the father Winn seems to have everything he wants. However, we soon discover his insecurities as he is obs
Dec 17, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction
In a fictional universe, this is exactly the book an English major would write, assuming the author of said fictional universe had a really poor opinion of English majors.

This book is full of DEEP MEANING, and UNDER CURRENTS, and BIG EVOCATIVE WORDS. You can almost hear the author thinking after a particularly annoying sentence "ooh that's good."

The story is about Winn, an unlikeable guy in New England, who is going to host his pregnant daughter's wedding on an island called Waskeke. He's a ho
Sep 04, 2012 rated it did not like it
Hillarious satire of dysfunctional family realtionships at a WASPy wedding...sounds like totally my thing. It wasn't. I found the writing tedious and uniteresting. The characters were unlikeable and the relationships seemed contrived and not very compelling. I picked this book up on a whim because I was looking for a lighter read after several very heavy novels. Hoping it would be a fun, light, end of summer novel. And the author's bio indicated she has written critically acclaimed short stories ...more
Jul 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
Several illicit affairs (some consummated physically, others mere farce), a wedding, a golf cart accident, and two pregnancies….not to mention the weathervane incident.

I found “Seating Arrangements” hilariously funny. It centers around a very pregnant woman, Daphne, who’s having her wedding on Cape Cod. Her father, Winn, who fancies himself an old guard aristocrat, is a consummate narcissist who somehow manages to be lovable. He couldn’t see another person’s point of view if it came up and bit h
Jul 28, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle, read-in-2016
Social comedy — or satire — WASPY, old money, upper-class New England family — loves, losses, longings. It all takes place on the Thursday, Friday, and Saturday of a wedding weekend on an island off East Coast, where all the bride’s and groom’s families have convened. It would literally make a great “beach read.” The fun is all the stuff that’s going on beneath the surface and, as I read somewhere, the class between appearances and authenticity. There’s one thoroughly pretentious and unlikable m ...more
Jun 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
Seating Arrangements was one of my favorite debut novels of 2012. Taking place over just three days, it is the tale of an upper middle class family preparing for their (heavily pregnant) daughter’s wedding weekend on an island off Connecticut. There are shades of Jonathan Franzen (the wry look at family dysfunction), of Jeffrey Eugenides’s The Marriage Plot, and of Zadie Smith (e.g. the subtle class considerations of On Beauty). But the novel is also reminiscent of Carol Shields’s Larry’s Party ...more
Jul 27, 2019 rated it liked it
But...why though? I can’t think of a compelling reason for this rather tired story to be written again. I could not possibly summon the energy to care for any characters except perhaps two minor ones. Most certainly not the main character... and not only was he deeply unlikeable, he was deeply uninteresting, which is the far worse sin. The writing didn’t help much. Oh, it was quite polished. You feel the impeccable, careful literary pedigree this writer brings with her in every sentence....which ...more
Aug 16, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: adult-lit
The best part about this read is the language and the writing – how Shipstead crafts a sentence. It’s really lovely to work your way through. Lots of preppy and aquatic references that, rather than annoy, help to solidify the people and setting of the novel. What’s more WASP-y than a theme, no?

I liked that the threads of plotlines began to form into a picture slowly. I think I was almost halfway through the book when it began to dawn on me that the central characters were going to be the father,
(Lonestarlibrarian) Keddy Ann Outlaw
You've heard of Bridezilla -- well everyone but the bride and the bride's mother deserves a "zilla" in this book. Maybe it's WASPzilla! There are a lot of people wearing clothing with whales or ducks on them, many references to Princeton, tennis clubs, Bloody Marys, etc. The action all takes place in and around Winn Van Meter's New England summer home on the weekend his pregnant daughter is getting married. Winn lusts after one of the bridesmaids. The bride's sister tries to forge a rebound roma ...more
Jun 15, 2013 rated it really liked it
I started this book once but couldn't get into it - who are these people? there's no one here I want to spend time with - and put it down. But after hearing Maggie Shipstead talk about it I gave it another try and ended up liking it a lot. She is not herself a New England WASP but she has spent time in that world, so her own perspective is that of Dominique, the outsider in the group.

Shipstead does a great job of capturing the different levels of self-awareness in her characters, from very litt
Kellie Lambert
Nov 23, 2012 rated it liked it
I hesitated to review this book because while I really enjoyed it, it was messy. It read sort of like a People magazine, with the affairs, the drama, the sort of amoral look on life (I like reading, People, don't get me wrong.) I'll just say it--I didn't want to be judged for enjoying the drama. That being said, the book was well-written. The pacing of the story was great, it kept me guessing, and there were some really unsettling, thought-provoking scenes in it that left me thinking. I know a b ...more
Jan 31, 2013 rated it really liked it
The seating arrangements at a wedding and last few days before "I do" take careful planning. Maggie Shipstead takes this premise and weaves a sometimes humorous, often dark novel centered on the father and sister of the bride with the rest of the bridal party and the setting - an East Coast island one imagines is fashioned on Martha's Vineyard - as supporting characters. Making these two people, who usually have small roles in a wedding, be the novel's focal point skews the novel beautifully.

Jul 01, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: print, dnf, borrowed, book-club
At page 75, I gave up. I can't finish this book. Some of the descriptions are a great turn of phrase, but there's too much internal dialogue for my taste. I don't like the characters, or the way the story bounces back and forth. I did laugh a couple times by page 50, so I'm sure there are more funny moments, but I just can't read this fast enough to ignore the rest of my TBR to get there.

I hear that a couple other members of our book club couldn't finish this either, so at least I don't feel lik
Cindy H.
Jul 02, 2019 rated it liked it
I read this a few months ago and while I really enjoyed the book at the time, I can’t remember much about it 3 months later. It involves a wedding, a daft dad/husband experiencing a midlife crisis and some other rich people’s problems.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
What do you think the whale symbolizes? 2 21 Jul 22, 2014 03:29PM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Senator's Wife
  • The Vacationers
  • The Last Summer of the Camperdowns
  • Friends and Strangers
  • Catching Genius
  • Modern Lovers
  • I Do But I Don't: Why the Way We Marry Matters
  • Sex and World Peace
  • Social and Emotional Development in Early Intervention
  • Big Summer
  • Herrn Kukas Empfehlungen
  • All Adults Here
  • Raising a Happy, Unspoiled Child
  • Choosing Hope: Moving Forward from Life's Darkest Hours
  • The Two Hotel Francforts
  • The Tudor Tutor: Your Cheeky Guide to the Dynasty
  • Love, Chocolate, and a Dog Named Al Capone
  • Maybe God Is Like That Too
See similar books…
Maggie Shipstead is the author of two novels: Astonish Me and Seating Arrangements, which won the Dylan Thomas Prize and the L.A. Times Book Prize for First Fiction.

She is a graduate of Harvard and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and a former Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford. Her writing has appeared in many publications including the New York Times, the Washington Post, the San Francisco Chronicle,

News & Interviews

It’s time to turn your attention to something dark and twisty, to a story (or two or three) so engaging, the pages just fly by. In short, it’s...
26 likes · 3 comments
“Female friendship was one-tenth prevention and nine-tenths cleanup.” 18 likes
“Marriage is difficult, perhaps the most difficult thing you can ever do, besides being a parent, but I think these two fine young people are up to the challenge. Here are two steady, responsible people who, I believe, understand the dire commitment they are about to make and will choose to keep that commitment. Because it turns out to be a choice, commitment-not some done deal. When you leave the alter tomorrow, there will still be a lifetime of choice and temptation and doubt and uncertainty in front of you. I didn't know that at my wedding. Getting married doesn't change you. Marriage changes you.” 11 likes
More quotes…