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The Maze at Windermere

3.52  ·  Rating details ·  2,606 ratings  ·  460 reviews
A richly layered novel of love, ambition, and duplicity, set against the storied seascape of Newport, Rhode Island

A 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
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published January 9th 2018 by Viking
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Laura Jordan Historically, Quakers utilized a "plain" system of dating that side-stepped days of the week named after pagan gods (e.g. Thursday) and months named a…moreHistorically, Quakers utilized a "plain" system of dating that side-stepped days of the week named after pagan gods (e.g. Thursday) and months named after Roman emperors (e.g. August) and numbers (e.g. October). Instead, their days of the week began on Sunday (1st day) and followed sequentially. Similarly, their months took their names from numbers, although Prudence (living before 1752, when the English-speaking world shifted over to the Gregorian calendar) would have marked the turning of the year in March rather than January (March would be "i mo." and April would be "ii mo." and so on and so forth). So "5th day, 6 viii mo." can be read as "Thursday, 6 October." (less)
Patricia Rodilosso The maze seems like the tangled web of male-female relationships that is constant through history. Marrying for money, marrying for security, not marr…moreThe maze seems like the tangled web of male-female relationships that is constant through history. Marrying for money, marrying for security, not marrying due to sexual preference, seduction, affairs, it is all messy business at any time in the history of Newport.(less)

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Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader
3.75 ambitious and notable stars to The Maze at Windermere ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ .75

This is the quite the unique read! There are five separate stories across four centuries, and they all center on Newport, Rhode Island. The stories have common themes, and they converge in a masterful way. Gregory Blake Smith is a skilled writer, and The Maze at Windermere is an ambitious undertaking; kind of a thrill ride without being a thriller. I liked the characters and found each section engaging.

While I definitely enj
Ron Charles
Jan 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
“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
Apr 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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 more 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:
Dec 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
I usually dislike dual time period books because one is always a lot more 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 mor ...more
Feb 19, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: historical
* 3.5 *

This book appealed to me initially because it had excellent cover game. It also (wrongfully as it turned out ) suggested a Cloud Atlas type 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
Dec 25, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: usa, 2018-read
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 Newpo
Mar 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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-fist ...more
Katie Long
Jan 14, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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, well...a maze. 4.5 instead of the full five because there were a few characters I would have loved to see more of, and a couple of plot threads that were never quite woven into the whole (but maybe those were meant to be dead-ends i ...more
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.
Mar 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
The Maze at Windermere is a beautifully written, enthralling novel. Gregory Blake Smith juggles various characters and time periods with aplomb. He's chameleonic in his narrative voices. This book is a many layered look at relationships across time periods.

In the The Maze at Windermere, we follow five storylines all set in Newport, Rhode Island. In 2011 Sandy Allison is a former tennis pro, turned tennis instructor, giving tennis lessons to the rich summer people. He gets involved in a love pent
Jun 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Bruce Katz
Feb 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Wondrous, inventive, sparkling and gracious: There is simply no way to describe the pleasures of this book. As others have noted, the book is made up of five stories, all set in Newport, Rhode Island, but taking place at different times separated by hundreds of years.

Reading "The Maze at Windermere" is like taking a journey -- on a slow train, say -- and noticing along the way, with growing wonder and delight, that beyond the train's windows certain scenes and themes, relationships and symbols,
Anita Pomerantz
Feb 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
Literary readers should love this one, but it definitely requires some "work" on the part of the reader. It took me an unusually long time to finish, and I think that was mostly because of the format. I would describe the structure as five novellas set in different time periods, but in the same location, Newport, and told in rotating chapters (2011, 1896, 1863, 1778, and 1692). Until the final section where suddenly all of the time periods are compressed into short paragraphs as each story reach ...more
Feb 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Smith does something rather astonishing here. The setting is Newport, R.I., where New York society has summered for over a century in lavish mansions on the Atlantic. Told in alternating storylines from the years 2011, 1896, 1863, 1778, & 1692 he leads us to an appreciation of the vagaries of the human heart both by those who have great wealth and those that aspire to possess it. In the beginning of the novel, the storylines are distinct but as you near the end they collapse into one another in ...more
Jan 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Divided and undecided, so I’m rating it up. Which is to say giving it a rating it initially merited, before the narrative spiraled out of control, quite literally. This book is indeed a maze of mirrors, placed cleverly so that the reflections spins smaller and differently into the past, while echoing the same themes. Original and quite ingenious concept of five threads crafted into a cohesive total, a Fibonacci sequence of a novel. And yet…such a structure requires a certain kind of patience and ...more
robin friedman
Jan 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Five Stories Of Newport

Gregory Blake Smith's 2018 novel, "The Maze at Windermere" offers a strong sense of an American place as it consists of five separate stories set in Newport, Rhode Island from colonial times in 1692 to the 21st century. Each of the five stories has its own separate characters and each is told in a remarkable voice idiomatic for the period. The stories also share broad common themes, the stuff of literature, including the nature of love in many forms, sexuality, acceptance
Jan 30, 2019 added it
I thought it was superbly crafted and that the author did a stellar job, but my interest gradually waned and I became easily distracted by other books. I think I read it at the wrong time and would probably love it if I read it at another point.
This was brilliant. Often reading like a delicious psychological thriller, it was intricate and increasingly fast-paced. But first I had to decide if I had the patience for a book with narrators from five historical periods. Normally, no way. I was sucked in by that cover, though, and decided I’d read it until I no longer wanted to. Well, I still want to be reading this book. I think I’ll always want to be reading this book.

All five stories are set in Newport, Rhode Island and center on people t
May 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Five protagonists spanning three centuries, linked only by the ground they walk on (Newport Rhode Island), confront the same universal questions of morality in ways specific to their particular time, culture, and personal history. There's a fading tennis pro in 2011, a hanger-on to the rich and famous in Gilded Age 1898, a very young Henry James (!) in 1863, an aristocratic cad in 1798, and a 15 year old Puritan girl in 1692. Each story is engrossing in its own way and you can enjoy them simply ...more
Jan 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
What a great idea this author noodled and he successfully executed it!
Centered in Newport, RI we are presented with five dynamic stories of very different groups of people over the centuries. Each story is stunning.
Only complaint: small font for old eyes, but I understand since it is 339 pages and would be longer if the print was large enough for me.
I feel so grateful to my library - I got on train and rushed through the cold and wind to pick up this book ... and I am going to be selfish enoug
Jan 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Please Note: I received an advance copy of this book from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This did not influence the content of my review in any way.

It took me a long time to get into reading this book. At first I just didn't understand what was happening. The format of this book is a challenge, with changing timelines and five different stories happening at once. Like a maze, I was often lost at first. But as I ventured further in, I became immersed in these stories and loved it!

Feb 14, 2018 rated it it was ok
This book has next to nothing to do with the maze at Windermere. In 3 of the 5 time slices, the maze does not even exist. It is organized in bits of story in bits of time - so a mosaic would be a better metaphor than a maze. Even the cover art tells you it ain't about no maze. (Those little colored squares? Together, they make up - wait for it - a MOSAIC.) A more accurate title would be Race, Class, Gender, and Sexual Orientation in Newport: Mosaics in Time. But of course, that would not be as c ...more
Nov 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
I wasn’t ready for this book to end. Fans of Cloud Atlas will love this: “ the same time variants of oneself: inversions, deviants, distortions recessing unto the Horizon, regressing into the Infinite!”
Lauren Hopkins
Feb 24, 2018 rated it did not like it
The only maze I was interested in was the one that got me out of this disjointed narrative. Although I suppose it's impressive that you can create FIVE stories that are all bad. ...more
May 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
The Maze at Windermere is a fascinating historical novel set in five different time periods, but all located at Newport, Rhode Island. None of the five story lines have any direct connection with the others but they all have thematic echoes in common and certain landmarks appear in every story.

The first narrative is in 2011 where the reader follows the slightly naive tennis pro, Sandy Alison, as he tries to navigate his way among the sharks of upper crust society. Next is Franklin Drexel in 189
Catherine at The Gilmore Guide to Books
I’m able and willing to read novels with multiple points-of-view and timelines but there has to be a cohesion to them. In The Maze at Windermere there is not. The novel reads as four very different stories with only the location to bind them. Granted, the location is Newport, Rhode Island, home to the uber-wealthy, which is probably why I chose the book. But, even though the stories are interesting, the jerking back forth between the 1600s and 2011 with two other eras in between is too much. I h ...more
Gary Branson
May 01, 2018 rated it did not like it
Terrible, just terrible. 5 storylines covering over 300 years and none of them come together. And, worst of all, none of them had an ending. I'm not sure why I finished this, three of the stories were so incredibly boring. Pick up anything else to read. I do not understand how someone could like this mess. My opinion only, doesn't mean others won't like it. ...more
Jan 24, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition

The premise was good but the story was lost in the pretence of language. A rambling through history with a tenuous hold on fact and a blurry vision of the characters who were expected to carry the story.
Feb 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
If (like me) you spend any time wondering about the people who lived in your house, or who had the same commute, or who frequented the same church/library/bar 50 or a 100 years ago, then this is the book for you.
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Gregory Blake Smith is the award-winning author of four novels, including The Maze at Windermere and The Divine Comedy of John Venner, a New York Times Notable Book. His short story collection, The Law of Miracles, won the Juniper Prize and the Minnesota Book Award. He has received a Stegner Fellowship at Stanford University and the George Bennett Fellowship at Phillips Exeter Academy and grants f ...more

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